Thomas Jessell has made fundamental contributions to neuroscience by revealing the basic principles of how our nervous system communicates. His work has defined how the neurons that make up the sensory-motor system develop into diverse types, how they wire themselves together, and how that very precise wiring controls refined motor skills such as locomotion and object manipulation. By identifying how sensory motor neurons are connected, Jessell has opened the door to potential strategies to treat and cure neurodegenerative diseases that impair movement, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Jessell is Claire Tow Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University. He is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a co-director of the Columbia/Kavli Institute for Brain Science. Jessell is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, and was a co-recipient of the first-ever Kavli Prize in Neuroscience in 2008. In March, his work was recognized with the Canadian Gairdner Foundation award.