Carnegie Mellon University
January 29, 2014

Press Release: Renowned Neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth To Receive Carnegie Mellon's Dickson Prize in Science

Contact: Jocelyn Duffy / 412-268-9982 /

DeisserothPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University will award its 2013 Dickson Prize in Science to Karl Deisseroth, the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry at Stanford University. Deisseroth is best known for his contributions to optogenetics, a technique that has revolutionized how scientists study neurons in the brain.

The late Pittsburgh physician Joseph Z. Dickson, and his wife, Agnes Fisher Dickson, established CMU's Dickson Prize in Science in 1969.  It is awarded annually to individuals in the United States who make outstanding contributions to science.

Deisseroth will receive the award, which includes a medal and cash prize, before giving the annual Dickson Prize Lecture at noon on Monday, Feb. 3 in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center on CMU's Oakland campus. His lecture, titled "Illuminating the Brain," is free and open to the public.

"Dr. Deisseroth's approaches have initiated a revolution in the field of neuroscience," said Nathan Urban, the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences and head of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Named a "Breakthrough of the Decade" by Science magazine in 2010, optogenetics uses light sensitive proteins to control the activity of individual neurons or specific populations of neurons.  Using this approach, researchers can selectively activate or inactivate these genetically modified neurons using light, allowing unprecedented control of neuronal activity. Optogenetics is now being used widely to study the mechanisms of normal brain functions, like memory and sensory perception, as well as abnormal conditions like Parkinson's disease, addiction, depression and autism.

Deisseroth's latest work focuses on CLARITY, a chemical technique that turns unlabeled brain tissue transparent, allowing researchers to visualize and study the brain's 3-D structure and circuitry using standard 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, the Nakasone Award of the Human Frontiers Science Program, and The Brain Prize from the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize Foundation. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine.