Neuroscience concentrator Mark Czeisler (‘19) has received the 2019 John E. Dowling Thesis Prize. The prize, named for MCB faculty John Dowling, honors Neuroscience concentrators who produce outstanding thesis work.
“The Dowling Prize is the highest award for Neuroscience thesis writers; only one such award is given each year,” Neuroscience concentration advisor Ryan Draft explains. “It is presented to the student whose work best represents the ideals of research and discovery as exemplified by Dr. Dowling.”
This year, the prize committee selected Czeisler’s investigation into the connectomics of “master clock” neurons, which he conducted as a student in the Lichtman lab. The project’s title was “Characterizing the Morphology of Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Neuronal Interactions: Exploring Ultrastructural Features that May Subserve Circadian Synchronization in Mammals.”
“Mark earned this prize, in part because he was a force of nature in the lab,” Draft says. “He showed an unrelenting drive and a highly creative and collaborative mindset. In doing so, he forged a new line of research in the Lichtman lab, which was not studying sleep regulation before Mark came along.”
Draft continues, “To accomplish his research aims, Mark made a tremendous effort to scan his own images using the electron microscope and then reconstruct a group of cells from a veritable ocean of data. Along the way, he faced setbacks that would have discouraged a lesser scientist, but he overcame or circumvented them all. His written thesis, like his research, went above and beyond every step of the way.”
Czeisler is thrilled to receive the award, in part because of its connection to Professor Dowling. “In all disciplines, but especially in science, people build on foundational discoveries and contributions by giants in the field,” Czeisler says. “Meeting one of these giants is rare. Working in the same lab and sharing conversations with one doesn’t happen. Yet I found that with Professor John Dowling. Receiving an award in his name means the world to me…Moreover, he has influenced my training as a research scientist through his untiring passion and curiosity. I aspire to approach the questions driving my career with the same commitment.”
After graduation, Czeisler plans to spend a year in Australia, where he will study sleep patterns on a Fulbright Fellowship. “My thesis advisor Professor Jeff Lichtman was supportive of my proposal to study a brain area relating to circadian rhythms, a personal interest [of mine],” Czeisler says. “Because of his backing, I was able to work on a project that will serve as a foundation for my postgraduate plans to continue exploring the circadian brain clock.”
Czeisler is grateful to the MCB and Neuroscience community for their support and encouragement. “I want to thank two friends and [fellow] thesis writers, EJ Kim and Ellie Underwood, for making the thesis process particularly enjoyable and rewarding,” Czeisler said.