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Current Recipient

Dr. Karl Deisseroth


Dr. Joseph Z. Dickson, a Pittsburgh physician, and his wife, Agnes Fisher Dickson, provided funds in their wills for Carnegie Mellon University to award an annual prize to individuals who make outstanding contributions to science in the United States. 

The recipient of this year's Dickson Prize is neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth, who has developed methods that have revolutionized how researchers study brain function. He is best known for developing optogenetics, a technology that uses light-sensitive proteins to control the function of individual neurons, allowing scientists to study the role specific neurons play in normal brain functions, as well as in conditions like autism and depression. Optogenetics was named the "Breakthrough of the Decade" by Science magazine, and "Method of the Year" by Nature Methods magazine.

Deisseroth has also developed CLARITY, a chemical technique that can make a brain transparent, allowing researchers to visualize and study the brain's 3-D structure and wiring using molecular probes.

Deisseroth's work has been widely recognized by the scientific community. He was awarded the National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award, a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, a McKnight Foundation Scholar Award, the Lawrence C. Katz Prize in Neurobiology and the Nakasone Award of the Human Frontier Science Program. He has been elected as a member of the Institute of Medicine.

Deisseroth is the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and is a practicing inpatient and outpatient psychiatrist. He earned his A.B. in biochemical sciences from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience and M.D. from Stanford University.