Thomas Südhof has achieved stellar scientific results with a style that colleagues call typically German — sober, meticulous and highly competitive.
Portraits of scientists who are making a mark on autism research.
Matthew State is both a dedicated clinician and a world-class geneticist, but his diplomatic style is a relic of his former adventures in politics.
Hazel Sive is a classically-trained embryologist and developmental biologist, and an expert in zebrafish genetics. She is using the small, transparent fish embryos for research on autism — an odd choice, as they obviously lack the complex behavioral repertoire seen in the disorder.
For nearly 20 years, Ralph Adolphs has been trying to figure out how the human amygdala works. An avid outdoorsman, Adolphs has run a dozen 50- and 100-mile races, and his colleagues say he approaches science with the same stamina and intensity. He has already published more than 100 scientific papers, several of them revealing intriguing ties between the amygdala and autism.
With robust training in developmental psychology and a techie’s fervor for new tools, Kevin Pelphrey is systematically investigating how the brain changes during development — starting in infants as young as 6 weeks old.
With an openness to collaboration and a healthy dose of daring, Evan Eichler has turned his offbeat interest in repeat DNA sequences into a new understanding of how genomes evolve, expediting the search for genes disrupted in autism.
Guoping Feng’s perseverance has proven a boon to the hundreds of neuroscientists who rely on his most celebrated scientific achievement: two dozen mouse strains engineered to have brightly colored brain cells. By creating the first robust mouse model of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Feng has also found a way to study repetitive behaviors, one of the three core characteristics of autism.
Interested more in ideas than in dominating a crowded field, Michael Wigler decided to apply his expertise in cancer genetics to studying poorly understood features of autism.
In the spring of 2002, as a new graduate student at the University of Washington, Raphael Bernier was charged with introducing his advisor, Geraldine Dawson, before her lecture to a room of about 40 people from the psychology department. To Dawson’s astonishment, Bernier sang his introduction to the tune of On Top of Old Smokey. “[It was] a pretty gutsy thing for a first-year student to do,” Dawson says.
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