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Sharad Ramanathan

Sharad Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Assistant Professor of Applied Physics (SEAS) has been selected as one of 22 Pew Scholars in Biomedical Sciences for 2011 by the Pew Charitable Trusts. He will receive $60,000 a year for four years from the program.

“I am delighted to be nominated as a Pew Scholar and am very much looking forward to being part of the Pew community,” said Ramanathan. “I will use the resources they give me to study, at a system level, how the dynamics of different neurons in the nervous system of the nematode, C. elegans, result in the animal’s behavioral decisions. To do so, we will develop novel engineering and optical tools, as well as a library of C. elegans lines, which we hope will benefit the larger community.”

In announcing the award on June 14, the Pew Charitable Trusts wrote: “Dr. Ramanathan will investigate how single nerve cells in the worm C. elegans direct behavior, such as moving the animals in a certain direction, such as left or right. While the nerve cells have been mapped in the worm, little is known regarding how an input signal leads to a motor output.  This question relates on a larger scale to understanding how a nerve circuit in any animal creates a sense, such as vision or smell. Furthermore, it informs us about what can go awry when these circuits do not function, such as when nerve cells degenerate, leading to ocular disease or blindness and loss of smell. Using a novel combination of genetics, molecular biology and engineering techniques, he has the ability to activate a single nerve cell and study its function. Dr. Ramanathan will expand this system to examine how information flows through the entire animal’s nervous system. His findings will lay the groundwork for understanding how brains function and could reveal novel approaches for treating both movement and sensory disorders due to neurodegeneration.”

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health. The program makes grants to selected academic institutions to support the independent research of outstanding individuals who are in their first few years of their appointment at the assistant professor level. Its support enables scientists to take calculated risks and follow unanticipated leads to maximize the benefits of their research for society. To date, the program has invested more than $130 million to fund over 500 Pew Scholars. Past scholars include three Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows and recipients of the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award.

[June 15h, 2011]

View Sharad Ramanathan’s Faculty Profile