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John E. Dowling, Ph.D., the Gordon and Llura Gund Research Professor of Neurosciences at Harvard University and Professor of Ophthalmology (Neuroscience) at Harvard Medical School, has been named a Distinguished Scientist of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA – the institution’s highest honor. Dowling and three other scientists received the award at a meeting of the MBL Society on July 27, 2016, joining a group of only six other researchers on whom the title has been previously conferred. Distinguished Scientists are recognized as highly accomplished researchers whose exceptional work at the MBL demonstrates national and international significance.
“I am very honored by this recognition,” says Dowling. “I have been associated with the Lab since the late 60s, first as a summer researcher, then a founding faculty member of three courses [Neurobiology; Fundamental Issues in Vision Research; and Zebrafish Development and Genetics], and most recently as President of the MBL Corporation (now the MBL Society) for ten years. The nearly 40 years of partnership with such an outstanding institution has meant much to me and to my scientific career.”
Dowling’s accolade recognizes his groundbreaking research at the Laboratory elucidating the cellular architecture and function of the vertebrate retina, helping provide insight into neural mechanisms throughout the brain. Over the years, his 42 published papers have focused on the cells of the retina and their structure, function and synaptic interactions. His Neuroscience group at Harvard’s MCB is currently pursuing two major interests, both in zebrafish: behavioral tests to isolate visual system-specific mutations that affect the retinas of chemically mutated zebrafish, and examinations of the effects of retinoic acid on candidate genes involved in early eye and photoreceptor development along with a detailed examination of early retinal development.
Dowling has previously been honored as a Trustee of MBL from 1970-1979 and 1986-1990, and currently serves as a Trustee Emeritus. His numerous other awards include American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, National Eye Institute MERIT Award, and American Philosophical Society Member. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Harvard University Press.
Following the announcement, a permanent exhibit honoring the Laboratory’s Distinguished Scientists was unveiled in the lobby of the Laboratory’s Lillie Building in Woods Hole.

Read more on the MBL website

View John Dowling’s Faculty Profile