Richard Tsien, inaugural director of the Neuroscience Institute at New York University Langone Medical Center, has fostered the careers of many excellent neuroscientists over four decades as a teacher at Yale and Stanford Universities before joining NYU in 2011. A cardiac electrophysiologist by training, Tsien now focuses on the dynamics of the synapse and topics ranging from calcium channels that trigger neurotransmitter release to understanding how postsynaptic activity controls nuclear transcription.
He has clarified how ion channels are modulated by transmitters, and in turn, regulate intracellular signaling. His group has developed new optical approaches to peer into single vesicle fusion events and the workings of multiple synaptic inputs in networks. The work has relevance to disease states such as pain, epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia and their amelioration by therapeutic agents.
Tsien received both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a Rhodes Scholar, graduating with a doctorate in biophysics from Oxford University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the Academia Sinica. His past honors include the Cole Medal, the Palade Medal, the Cartwright Prize, the Axelrod Prize, the 2014 Bard Lectureship, the 2014 Annual Review Prize and the 2014 Gerard Prize. In 2015, he was named the inaugural scientific director of the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders.