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Lily Jan and Eve Marder receive 2023 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

Portraits of Marder and Jan

Eve Marder (left) and Lily Jan (right)

Groundbreaking neuroscientists Lily Jan and Eve Marder have jointly received the 2023 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, an award which recognizes outstanding women scientists. The award was presented by Ellen V. Futter, president emerita of the American Museum of Natural History, in a ceremony on The Rockefeller University campus on September 20.

“This year’s awardees are two outstanding scientists who have made fundamental contributions to neurobiology,” says Michael W. Young, Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor, Nobel Laureate, and chair of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize selection committee. “Lily Jan’s work led to the first molecular description of the potassium channel, which allows a nerve to carry electrical impulses, and Eve Marder has revealed how populations of neurons interact to produce behavior and how behavioral flexibility can be built into neural circuits.”

Jan’s work provided landmark advances in understanding the function and regulation of potassium channels, which, among other cellular roles, modulate neuronal signaling in the brain. She also famously discovered that peptides can act as neurotransmitters to transfer messages from one neuron to another. Jan is the Jack and DeLoris Lange Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the Academia Sinica (Taiwan).

Marder, most recognized for her work understanding the modulation of neural networks, is the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield University Professor at Brandeis University. Studying the lobster stomatogastric nervous system—consisting of just 30 neurons that control the muscles in the lobster digestive tract—Marder has made profound discoveries about the dynamics of neuronal circuits, which balance the needs for both homeostasis and plasticity. She served as president of the Society for Neuroscience as well as on the working group for President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, which was founded by the late Paul Greengard, the Vincent Astor Professor of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at Rockefeller, and his wife, Ursula von Rydingsvard, an internationally renowned sculptor with works in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and other venues. A lifelong advocate for gender equality, Greengard donated his monetary share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Rockefeller and, in partnership with generous supporters, established an annual award to recognize outstanding women scientists. The prize, which includes a $100,000 honorarium, is named for Greengard’s mother, who died during his birth.