Scientific Advisory Board

Photo of Dr. Joshua R. Sanes

Joshua R. Sanes, PhD

Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
and the Paul J. Finnegan Family Director,
Center for Brain Science, Harvard University


Dr. Joshua Sanes studies the formation of synapses, the connections that transmit information between nerve cells. Changes in synapses underlie learning and memory, and synaptic defects underlie diverse neurological and psychiatric diseases. Dr. Sanes is therefore interested in the mechanisms that regulate the formation of these structures. He and his colleagues initially used the neuromuscular synapse, which connects the spinal cord to muscles, because it was experimentally more accessible than synapses in the brain. Using this preparation, they identified key molecules that promote synapse formation. More recently, they have extended this work to the brain itself, and also pioneered new ways to image synapses as they form.

Dr. Sanes received a B.A. from Yale, where he was Scholar of the House. He earned a PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard in 1976. Following postdoctoral work at UCSF, he joined the faculty of Washington University, where he served on the faculty for over 20 years and held an Endowed Chair of Neurobiology. He returned to Harvard in 2004 as Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and founding Director of the Center for Brain Science. Dr. Sanes is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recipient of the Alden Spencer Award of Columbia University, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences . He has served on the National Advisory Council of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NIH), the Council of the Society for Neuroscience, and advisory panels for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, the Klingenstein Neuroscience Fund, the Searle Scholars Fund, the Stowers Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Photo of Dr. John F. Macdonald

John F. MacDonald, PhD, FRSC

The CRN would like express our deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. John MacDonald, who passed away April 22, 2014. Dr. MacDonald was former Director of the Robarts Research Institute and Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western University. He also served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the CRN. He was an outstanding scientist who made many important contributions to neuroscience during his stellar and productive career.  John will be greatly missed by us and by his colleagues for his scholarship and above all for his warm friendship and his thoughtful advice.  

Photo of Dr. S. Lawrence Zipursky

S. Lawrence Zipursky, PhD

Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry,
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of California, Los Angeles


Dr. Larry Zipursky studies the molecular mechanisms by which neurons make highly specific patterns of connections, called synapses, during development. Understanding how synapses are specified is a problem of daunting complexity in the human brain. Even in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which his lab studies, there are 250,000 neurons and millions of synaptic connections. How do correct connections form during development? Presumably specific molecular labels on the surface of different neurons provide a basis for the cellular recognition that underlies this specificity. Identifying these labels and understanding how they work is the central goal of Dr. Zipursky's research.

He received his Ph.D. degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he studied mechanisms of DNA replication in bacteria in the laboratory of Jerard Hurwitz. He moved to the California Institute of Technology to pursue postdoctoral studies in Drosophila neurogenetics with Seymour Benzer and then joined the UCLA faculty. He became an Associate Investigator of the HHMI in 1991, and an HHMI Investigator in 1994. He has held his current position as Professor in UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine since July 1993, and he is also a member of the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA. Dr. Zipursky was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998. He has served on the editorial boards of several high profile scientific journals, and has organized numerous scientific conferences. He has sat on scientific advisory boards for the Hereditary Disease Foundation and the Helen Hay Whitney Foundataion, and review panels for the Searle, Sloan and McKnight Scholars Programs, the Jane Coffin Childs postdoctoral awards committee, two NIH Study Sections, and Visiting Committees for the Division of Biology at Caltech and the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease at UCSF.