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Neuroscientists to be honored at 2016 Gill Symposium for recasting role of glial cells in the brain

  • Sept. 7, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two prominent neurobiologists will be honored Sept. 12 at Indiana University Bloomington for their groundbreaking work on glial cells in the brain.

Ben Barres of Stanford University School of Medicine and Beth Stevens of Harvard University Medical School will be recognized during the annual symposium of the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science.

Long considered supporting cells, glia are now thought to have important metabolic functions, owing in part to work of Barres, Stevens and four other symposium speakers, whose research will be highlighted with a series of lectures on the theme of "neuron-glia interaction in the nervous system."

The 2016 Gill Symposium will take place in the Whittenberger Auditorium at the Indiana Memorial Union. The event is free, but registration is required.

Ben Barres

Ben Barres, professor and chair of neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2016 Gill Distinguished Scientist Award.

"Throughout his career, Ben Barres has identified important unanswered questions and worked to solve them even when doing so was seen as unfashionable," said Dan Tracey, the Linda and Jack Gill Chair of Neuroscience and professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology. "This was particularly true of his work on neuron-glia interactions, which was considered by many to be an uninteresting topic.

"Now, largely based on the results of Barres and his trainees, many others have entered this exciting area and have finally recognized its importance,” Tracey said.

Hui-Chen Lu, Gill Chair of Neuroscience and professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said: "Ben has been passionate about increasing diversity and raising awareness for gender bias in science."

Stevens will accept the award on the behalf of Barres, who is unable to attend.

Beth Stevens

Beth Stevens, assistant professor of neurology in the FM Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is the recipient of the 2016 Gill Transformative Investigator Award.

"Beth Stevens has already been recognized for pushing the boundaries of her field with her innovative and influential research," said Andrea Hohmann, Gill Chair of Neuroscience and professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "She identified immune mechanisms which prune synapses and alter the wiring of the brain at a time when no one expected this to occur in a normal brain."

"This complement-driven removal of synapses may also be important in the synaptic loss seen in diseases as diverse as viral encephalitis, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease," added Ken Mackie, Gill Chair of Neuroscience and professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Stevens is also a member of the Broad Institute at MIT. She will present a lecture titled "Immune Mechanisms of Synapse Loss in Health and Disease."

Hugo J. Bellen, a neurobiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine and a former Gill Distinguished Scientist Awardee, will deliver the 2016 Gill Symposium Keynote Lecture. His lecture is titled "The Role of Mitochondria, Glia and Lipid Droplets in the Demise of Neurons."

Three other notable speakers and their lectures are:

  • Nicola J. Allen of the Salk Institute, "Astrocyte Regulation of Neuronal Glutamate Receptors"
  • Richard Daneman of the University of California, San Diego, "The Blood-Brain Barrier in Health and Disease"
  • Cagla Eroglu of Duke University, "Control of Synaptic Connectivity by Astrocytes"

The speakers will also participate in a round-table discussion with audience participation on the topic of "science as a career," based on their experiences and perspectives. A graduate student thesis award and an image award will also be presented.

The 2016 Gill Symposium will take place from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A poster session and reception will follow the event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the IMU Solarium.

A complete schedule is available at the Gill Center website.

The Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science, part of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, was established by a generous gift from Linda and Jack Gill to advance the understanding of complex biological processes and to train the next generation of scientists in biomolecular measurements, especially in the field of neuroscience. Members and collaborators include faculty from IU's departments of biology, chemistry, molecular and cellular biochemistry, physics, psychological and brain sciences, and neuroscience, all in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine.

For more information about the Gill Symposium or the Gill Center, contact Misty Theodore at gillctr@indiana.edu or 812-856-1930.

Related Links

Ben Barres

Ben Barres | Photo by Stanford University School of Medicine

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Beth Stevens

Beth Stevens | Photo by Harvard University

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Hugo Bellen

Hugo Bellen | Photo by Baylor College of Medicine

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Media Contacts

Liz Rosdeitcher

  • Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
  • Office 812-855-4507
  • rosdeitc@indiana.edu