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McGovern Institute to present inaugural Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience Research

The Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience Research will be awarded on Friday April 23rd at the McGovern Institute at MIT, a leading research and teaching institute committed to advancing understanding of the human mind and communications. According to Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, Director of the Institute, this annual research prize will recognize outstanding discoveries or significant advances in the field of neuroscience.

The inaugural prize will be presented to Dr. Masakazu Konishi, Bing Professor of Behavioral Biology at the California Institute of Technology. As part of the day’s events, Dr. Konishi will present a free public lecture, “Non-linear steps to high stimulus selectivity in different sensory systems” at 1:30 PM on Friday, April 23rd at MIT (building E25, room 111.) Following the lecture, The McGovern Institute is hosting an invitation-only reception and dinner honoring Dr. Konishi at the MIT Faculty Club. Speakers for the evening award presentation include: Dr. Sharp; Patrick J. McGovern, Founder and Chairman of International Data Group (IDG) and trustee of MIT and the Institute; Edward Scolnick, former President of Merck Research Laboratories; and Torsten Wiesel, President Emeritus of Rockefeller University.

“I am pleased, on behalf of the McGovern Institute, to recognize the important work that Dr. Mark Konishi is doing,” said Dr. Sharp. “Dr. Konishi is being recognized for his fundamental discoveries concerning mechanisms in the brain for sound location such as a neural topographic map of auditory space. Through a combination of his discoveries, the positive influence of his rigorous approach, and the cadre of young scientists he has mentored and trained, Dr. Konishi has improved our knowledge of how the brain works, and the future of neuroscience research. Mark is truly a leader, and well-deserving of this prestigious honor.”

Dr. Konishi received his B.S and M.S degrees from Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan and his Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. After holding positions at the University of Tubingen and the Max-Planck Institute in Germany, Dr. Konishi returned to the United States, where he worked at the University of Wisconsin and Princeton University before coming to the California Institute of Technology in 1975 as Professor of Biology. He has been the Bing Professor of Behavioral Biology at Caltech since 1980. With scores of publications dating back to 1971, and as the recipient of fourteen previous awards, Dr. Konishi has forged a deserved reputation as an outstanding investigator.

Among his many findings, Dr. Konishi is known for his fundamental discoveries concerning sound location by the barn owl and the song system in the bird. He discovered that in the inferior colliculus of the brain of the barn owl there is a map of auditory space and he identified the computational principles and the neural mechanisms that underlie the workings of the map.

The creation of the Edward M. Scolnick Prize was announced last year, with the first presentation scheduled for 2004. The annual prize consists of an award equal to $50,000 and will be given each year to an outstanding leader in the international neuroscience research community. The McGovern Institute will host a public lecture by Dr. Konishi in the spring of 2004, followed by an award presentation ceremony.

The award is named in honor of Dr. Edward M. Scolnick, who stepped down as President of Merck Research Laboratories in December 2002, after holding Merck & Co., Inc.’s top research post for 17 years. During his tenure, Dr. Scolnick led the discovery, development and introduction of 29 new medicines and vaccines. While many of the medicines and vaccines have contributed to improving patient health, some have revolutionized the ways in which certain diseases are treated.

About the McGovern Institute at MIT

The McGovern Institute at MIT is a research and teaching institute committed to advancing human understanding and communications. The goal of the McGovern Institute is to investigate and ultimately understand the biological basis of all higher brain function in humans. The McGovern Institute conducts integrated research in neuroscience, genetic and cellular neurobiology, cognitive science, computation, and related areas.

By determining how the brain works, from the level of gene expression in individual neurons to the interrelationships between complex neural networks, the McGovern Institute’s efforts work to improve human health, discover the basis of learning and recognition, and enhance education and communication. The McGovern Institute contributes to the most basic knowledge of the fundamental mysteries of human awareness, decisions, and actions.

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