Postdoc Joseph Zak of the Murthy Lab has been chosen by leaders of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS) as a recipient of this year’s Polak Young Investigator Award. This award recognizes postdocs and early-career researchers who study organisms’ ability to sense and respond to chemicals in their environment. Zak and the other honorees presented their research at a virtual symposium on April 20 as part of the AChemS 2021 Virtual Meeting.
“I am honored to receive the award following others I look up to in the field of chemosensory neuroscience,” Zak says. “Many of the leaders in my field are past recipients of the award and I am grateful for the opportunity to present my work to them.”
“I am thrilled that Joe has been recognized for his research,” says MCB faculty and Zak’s advisor Venki Murthy. “The Polak Award is particularly special because it is given based solely on the quality and excellence of the person’s science, without any input or letters sought from their mentors. It is very gratifying to know that Joe is held in high regard by his scientific peers, independent of my own high regard for him!”
Zak’s talk was titled “Odor Mixture Representations Favor a Single Stimulus Component in Cortical Projections to the Olfactory Bulb.”
He explains that most sensory systems are organized such that each successive neural computation step is more complex than the one before it, but the olfactory system is the exception. “This hierarchy is broken in the olfactory system, where dense projections from cortical regions (higher areas) arrive at the olfactory bulb (lower areas),” Zak says. “The work I presented describes how mixtures of sensory stimuli are encoded by these neural projections from higher areas to lower areas and the implications for sensory processing in the olfactory system.”
Zak adds that he is appreciative of the MCB community and his labmates in particular. “A thank you to the Murthy lab members for their constant feedback on this work and also to the Association for Chemoreception Sciences for their recognition,” he says. “I also would like to thank the Association for Chemoreception Sciences for running the meeting in a virtual format and continuing to foster a sense of community in our scientific subfield during the covid era.”
Congratulations to Dr. Zak!