Daniel Colón-Ramos, the Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Yale, has been awarded the Humboldt Prize for his lab’s work in describing fundamental aspects of the cell biology of synapses and behavior, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation announced April 13.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany awards these prizes to internationally renowned scientists and scholars in recognition of their lifetime research achievements. Recipients are “academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge academic achievements in the future.”
Award winners are invited to conduct research projects of their choice at a research institution in Germany in collaboration with specialist colleagues. Colón-Ramos is spending the 2021-22 academic year on sabbatical, and is currently an Elbe Visiting Scientist in the Center for Systems Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany.
In the laboratory of his colleague Anthony Hyman, the institute’s director, Colón-Ramos is examining how basic biophysical principles might regulate the cell biological organization of metabolism in neurons.
“I am interested in how fundamental physical principles might explain basic processes in the assembly and function of neurons, from how synapses are specified during development, to how they are modified with behavior,” he said. “The relationship between the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and the Max Planck Institute of the Physics of Complex Systems provides an ideal environment to pursue these interdisciplinary interests.”
Colón-Ramos, a native of Puerto Rico, is also the inaugural director of the Center for Neurodevelopment and Plasticity of the Wu Tsai Institute at Yale, an institute which encourages interdisciplinary scientific collaborations to understand human cognition.
“I thank the Humboldt Foundation for the recognition of the lab’s work, and my colleagues at the Max Planck for the opportunity of collaborating with them,” he said. “The award also represents an opportunity to learn about the ‘Dresden model,’ a scientific culture which enabled the establishment of interdisciplinary collaborations across physics, data science, and biology in Germany. I will use these lessons to inform initiatives at the Wu Tsai Institute at Yale University.”