Senior Fellows are distinguished scientists based in New York City. They select the Junior Fellows and meet and interact with them regularly at the Simons Foundation and at weekly dinners.
Fellow of the Simons Foundation:
Gerald D. Fischbach
Chief Scientist and Fellow of the Simons Foundation
Dr. Fischbach joined the Simons Foundation in 2006 to oversee the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, and is now the foundation’s first chief scientist and its first fellow. Formerly dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences at Columbia University, and director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health from 1998-2001, Fischbach received his M.D. degree in 1965 from Cornell University Medical School and interned at the University of Washington Hospital in Seattle. He began his research career at the National Institutes of Health, serving from 1966-1973. He subsequently served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, first as associate professor of pharmacology from 1973-1978 and then as professor until 1981. From 1981-1990, Fischbach was the Edison professor of neurobiology and head of the department of anatomy and neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine. In 1990, he returned to Harvard Medical School where he was the Nathan Marsh Pusey professor of neurobiology and chairman of the neurobiology departments of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital until 1998.
Throughout his career, Fischbach has studied the formation and maintenance of synapses, the contacts between nerve cells and their targets through which information is transferred in the nervous system. He pioneered the use of nerve cell cultures to study the electrophysiology, morphology and biochemistry of developing nerve-muscle and inter-neuronal synapses. His current research is focused on roles that neurotrophic factors play in determination of neural precursor fate, synapse formation and neuronal survival.
Fischbach is a past president of the Society of Neuroscience and serves on several medical and scientific advisory boards. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former non-resident fellow of the Salk Institute.
Appointed in 2016:
David Heeger’s research spans an interdisciplinary cross section of engineering, psychology and neuroscience. He studies visual perception and visual neuroscience by developing computational theories of neural processing in the visual cortex of the brain and by testing predictions of those theories using psychophysical (perceptual psychology) measurements of human vision and neuroimaging (fMRI) measurements of human brain activity. He has also developed algorithms for computer vision, image processing and computer graphics applications. These algorithms serve as the basis for Heeger’s theoretical/computational neuroscience work, and insights from perceptual psychology and visual neuroscience serve as the motivation and design criteria for the engineering applications.
Heeger is a Silver Professor of psychology and neural science at New York University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received his B.A. in mathematics and his Ph.D. in computer science, both from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Media Lab, a research scientist at the NASA-Ames Research Center and an associate professor at Stanford before joining the faculty at NYU.
Born in 1969 in Moscow, Andrei Okounkov studied at the Moscow State University, from which he received his bachelor’’s degree and his doctorate in mathematics (1995). He taught at the University of Chicago; the University of California, Berkeley; and Princeton University and is currently Samuel Eilenberg Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University. Okounkov is a recipient of the Sloan Research Fellowship (2000), a Packard Fellowship (2001), the European Mathematical Society Prize (2004), the Fields Medal (2006), and the Compositio Prize (2010). His main research interest is modern mathematical physics.
Margaret H. Wright is a Silver Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University. Prior to joining NYU in 2002, she was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff and Bell Labs Fellow in the Computing Science Research Center at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies. Before working at Bell Labs, she was a research scientist in the Department of Operations Research at Stanford. Wright received her B.S. (Mathematics) and M.S. and Ph.D. (Computer Science) from Stanford University.
She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1997), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001), and the National Academy of Sciences (2005). During 1995-1996 she served as president of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). She has been or is a member of scientific advisory committees for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, the (US) Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications (IMA), and Matheon, the Berlin Mathematics Institute. She has served on advisory committees at the National Science Foundation (for the Directorates of Mathematical and Physical Science, and Computer and Information Science and Engineering), and chaired the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee for the Department of Energy. She is an associate editor of the SIAM Journal on Optimization, the SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, and Mathematical Programming.
Her research interests include optimization, linear algebra, scientific computing, and real-world applications in science, engineering, and medicine. In recent years she has been interested in both the theoretical and practical properties of non-derivative methods for nonlinear optimization. She is also involved in research on interior-point algorithms for nonlinearly constrained continuous optimization.
Appointed in 2015:
David Hirsh is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, where he also served as department chairman from 1990 until 2003. In addition, during 2001 and 2002, he served as interim dean for research at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 2003, he was appointed Columbia University’s first executive vice president for research and served in that capacity until 2011.
After receiving a B.A. from Reed College, he earned a Ph.D. from the Rockefeller
University in 1968. From 1968 to 1971, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He was a member of the faculty of the University of Colorado from 1971 to 1985.
Dr. Hirsh also pursued an active career in the biotechnology industry as a founder of Synergen, Inc., and participating on the boards of several biotechnology companies.
Dr. Hirsh serves as chairman of the board of the New York Structural Biology Center, a member of the board of directors of the Agouron Institute and a trustee emeritus of the Rockefeller University.
His scientific research has been in the areas of nucleic acid structure and function and gene activity during early development of C. elegans. His lab studied the maternal and zygotic genes essential for early development as well as stochastic versus programmed determination of cell fates. They developed methods for DNA transformation of C. elegans and also studied RNA processing and unusual patterns of splicing. More recently, they studied the mammalian regulation of cytokines in the inflammatory response during infection and disease.
Carol Mason investigates visual system development. Her work has revealed molecular signals for the differentiation and guidance of retinal ganglion cells during the formation of the circuit for binocular vision. To understand development in the normal brain, she is probing retinal development in the albino visual system, in which the absence of pigment in the eye leads to a disruption of retinal ganglion cell specification, alteration of the binocular pathways and stereovision.
Mason received her B.S. from Chatham College and Ph.D. in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley. Mason is a professor of pathology and cell biology, neuroscience and ophthalmology at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons.
At Columbia, she is co-director of the graduate program in neurobiology and director of the Vision Sciences Training Program. She is on the scientific advisory board of the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Munich and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. She is a fellow of the AAAS and the Institute of Medicine. Until November, 2014, she was President of the Society for Neuroscience.
Appointed in 2014:
Moses Chao studies the action mechanism of neurotrophic factors in neuronal plasticity and their roles in neuropsychiatric disorders, with particular interest in receptor signal transduction pathways. He received his B.A. degree from Pomona College and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from UCLA. Chao is a professor of cell biology, neuroscience & physiology and psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.
He served as a senior editor for the Journal of Neuroscience for eleven years and as a member of the scientific advisory boards for the European Brain Research Foundation, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the Glaucoma Research Foundation, the New York Stem Cell Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He is an AAAS Fellow and a recipient of a Zenith Award from the Alzheimer’s Association, a Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
(Alumnus: Served 2014-2015)
Dan Littman is Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology at the Skirball Institute, New York University School of Medicine, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Littman’s first exposure to research was in Marc Kirschner’s laboratory at Princeton University, where he studied biophysical properties of tubulin. He then enrolled in the M.D./Ph.D. program at Washington University, St. Louis, where he developed an interest in the immune system, and for his dissertation project, he studied how T cells recognize both antigen and MHC molecules with Benjamin Schwartz and Susan Cullen. Littman next joined the laboratory of Richard Axel at Columbia University for his postdoctoral work, and he developed molecular genetic approaches to clone genes important for T lymphocyte function, including CD4 and CD8, which have key roles in guiding T cells to become either helper or killer cells. CD4 was soon thereafter shown to be the receptor for the human immunodeficiency virus, and Littman’s group had a key role in characterizing the interaction of the virus with CD4 and in identifying a second host molecule, CCR5, that is essential for HIV to infect T helper cells.
Littman was a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, before he was recruited to direct the Molecular Pathogenesis Program in the newly formed Skirball Institute at the NYU School of Medicine in 1995. Littman’s laboratory has made contributions to understanding how HIV interacts with the host immune system and how T lymphocytes acquire distinct functions, including those that favor autoimmune disease. The current focus of his group is on how intestinal microbiota shape the host immune system and contribute to systemic inflammatory processes.
John Morgan is a professor of mathematics and founding director of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University. His work is in the areas of geometry and topology. He has concentrated study of manifolds and smooth algebraic varieties. His most recent works include books, jointly with Gang Tian, explaining in detail the proof of the Poincaré conjecture and the geometrization conjecture, both of which concern the nature of three-dimensional spaces.
Morgan received his Ph.D. from Rice University in 1969. He was an instructor at Princeton from 1969 to 1972, an assistant professor at MIT from 1972 to 1974, and was associate professor and then professor at Columbia University from 1974 to 2009. In 2009, he joined Stony Brook University as Simons Center for Geometry and Physics Director. His awards include the Levi L. Conant Prize of the AMS (2009). He is a member of the AMS, an AMS Fellow (2013), and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Appointed in 2013:
(Alumnus: Served 2013-2016)
Tom Jessell’s research examines the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the assembly and function of circuits for motor control. His work has defined how diverse neuronal subtypes assemble into motor circuits and how the precision and logic of network wiring contributes to refined motor skills. Jessell is the Claire Tow Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. He is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and co-director of Columbia’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, and the Kavli Institute for Brain Science.
Dr. Movshon studies vision and visual perception, using a multidisciplinary approach that combines biology, behavior and theory. His work explores the way neural networks in the brain compute and represent the form and motion of objects and scenes, the way that these networks contribute to perceptual judgments and to the control of visually guided action, and the way that normal and abnormal visual experiences influence neural development in early life.
J. Anthony Movshon was born and raised in New York, received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and then joined the Department of Psychology at New York University in 1975. In 1987, he became founding Director of NYU’s Center for Neural Science. Among his honors are the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuroscience, the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics, the António Champalimaud Vision Award, the Karl Spencer Lashley Award from the American Philosophical Society, and the Golden Brain Award from the Minerva Foundation. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Boris Altshuler is a professor of physics at Columbia University specializing in theoretical condensed matter physics. Altshuler received his diploma in physics from Leningrad State University in 1976 and his Ph.D. from the Leningrad Institute for Nuclear Physics in 1979. Altshuler worked at the Institute from 1979-1989, when he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved to Princeton in 1996 and joined Columbia in 2006. He is also affiliated with the NEC research Laboratory. He has been awarded the Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize (now called the Agilent Physics Prize) and the Oliver E Buckley Prize. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. His research interests focus on physics of electrons in metals, semiconductors, superconductors and quantum nanodevices.