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Professor David J. Anderson


Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Leadership Chair
Director, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience

A.B., Harvard University, 1978; Ph.D., Rockefeller University, 1983. Assistant Professor, Caltech, 1986-92; Associate Professor, 1992-96; Professor, 1996-2004; Roger W. Sperry Professor, 2004-09; Benzer Professor, 2009-. Assistant Investigator, 1989-92; Associate Investigator, 1992-97; Investigator, 1997-.

David J. Anderson, Ph.D., is Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology where he has been on the faculty since 1986.  Dr. Anderson is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Anderson received his A.B. from Harvard, Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University under Günter Blobel and was postdoctoral fellow with Richard Axel at Columbia.  

For the first 20+ years of his career, Anderson's research focused on the biology of neural crest stem cells.  He was the first to isolate a multipotent self-renewing stem cell for neurons and glia, and subsequently identified growth factors and master transcriptional regulators that control their differentiation into neurons vs. glia, as well as their self-renewal.  Anderson has also made important contributions to angiogenesis and nerve-blood vessel interactions, including the discovery that arteries and veins are genetically distinct from before the onset of heartbeat.  

Beginning in the early part of the last decade, Anderson gradually switched his research focus from neural development to the study of neural circuits underlying innate behaviors that are associated with emotional states, including defensive behaviors and inter-male aggression.  His work employs both mice and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster as model organisms, and incorporates optogenetics, pharmacogenetics, electrophysiology, in vivo imaging and (in collaboration with Prof. Pietro Perona in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences), quantitative behavior analysis using machine vision-based approaches.  

Dr. Anderson played a key advisory role in the initial foundation of the Allan Institute for Brain Sciences and the Allen Brain Atlas, and now serves on their Scientific Advisory Board, as well as on the Advisory Council for Project MindScope and the Connectional Atlas.  He has also been a Visiting Scientist at HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus.  Dr. Anderson received the Alden Spencer Award in Neurobiology from Columbia University in 1999, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. 

Professional Activities

2019 Working Group for the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, BRAIN Initiative v2.0

2013 Working Group for the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, Obama BRAIN Initiative 
2011-present Mindscope Advisory Council, Allen Institute for Brain Science 
2010-present Neural Systems & Circuits Editorial Board 
2010-present Connectional Atlas Advisory Council, Allen Institute for Brain Science 
2009-2011 SAB Chair, Allen Institute for Brain Science 
2009-present Scientific Advisory Committee, Helen Hay Whitney Foundation

Special Lectures

2019 Detlev W. Bronk Alumni Lecture in honor of Gunter Blobel, Rockefeller University
2019 Mong Neurotech Lecture, Cornell University
2019 Keynote Lecture, International Basal Metazoan Meeting, Evangelische Akademie, Tutzing Germany
2019 Barondes Lecture, UCSF
2018 Cell Press-TNQ India Distinguished Lectureship Series
2018 Granit Lecture, Karolinska Institute
2017 Sackler Lecture, Yale University
2017 Keynote Lecture, Francis Crick Symposium, Cold Spring Harbor, Asia
2016 Keynote Speaker, Brain Forum, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
2016 Eric Simon Lecture, NYU Langone Medical Center
2016 Distinguished Neuroscience Speaker Lecture, University of Southern California
2015 Robert J. Terry Lecture, Washington University
2015 Bloomfield Lecture, Case Western Reserve University
2015 Teuber Lecture, MIT
2015 Brookhart Memorial Lecture, Oregon Health & Science University
2015 Keynote Lecture, UT Austin Conference on Learning and Memory, University of Texas
2014 Cold Spring Harbor Symposium on Quantitative Biology

2013 Albert and Ellen Grass Lecture, SFN Meeting 
2012 Emotional Brain Institute Distinguished Speaker, NYU
2011 Francis Crick Lecture, MRC Cambridge
2011 Steven Kuffler Lecture, Harvard Medical School
2011 Harvey Lecture, Rockefeller University
2011 Seymour Benzer Lecture, Oberlin College




Awards and Honors

2017 Thomas Salmon Award, New York Academy of Medicine
2016 Abraham Spector Prize, Columbia University
2012 Givaudan Prize, ACHEMS
2010 Allen Distinguished Investigator
2009 Named Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology
2007 Member, US National Academy of Sciences
2005 Alexander von Humboldt Award
2004 Named Roger W. Sperry Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology
2002 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow
2002 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow
2001 Associate, The Neurosciences Institute
2001 Ferguson Award for Graduate Teaching
1999 W. Alden Spencer Award in Neurobiology, Columbia University
1998 Ferguson Award for Graduate Teaching
1996 Ferguson Award for Biology Education
1990 Charles Judson Herrick Award in Comparative Neurology
1989 Javits Investigator in Neuroscience (NIH)
1988 Pew Faculty Fellowship for Neuroscience Research
1988 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in Neuroscience
1987 Searle Scholars Award
1986 NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award
1983-86 Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellow
1978 NSF Pre-Doctoral Fellow