This annual fundraising event will be held virtually this year and tickets are complimentary. We encourage you to make a donation to fund our W&S Fellowships for women graduate students and postdocs or the W&S Entrepreneurship Fund, both of which provide critical support to young investigators at Rockefeller University.
Gabrielle H. Reem and
Herbert J. Kayden Associate Professor
Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior
The Rockefeller University
“How do thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors arise from the bewilderingly complex circuits of the human brain? My work is inspired by the potential of simpler systems, like tiny insects, to provide insights that will ultimately help us to unravel the brain’s fundamental logic.”
Dr. Vanessa Ruta, a 2019 MacArthur Fellow, is a pioneering neuroscientist whose work is helping to explain how behavior is shaped by the interplay of instinct, experience, and memory. As a gateway to understanding the complexities of the brain, the Ruta laboratory studies courtship and mate selection in the fly Drosophila, which represent some of the most sophisticated behaviors these animals exhibit. Her groundbreaking discoveries span the scientific gamut from neuronal circuitry to molecular analysis. She and her colleagues have uncovered neural circuits that process sensory information deep in the brain that are shaped by evolution in different species of flies. Her lab has also shown that the brain can alter its anticipatory predictions of events based on the timing of sensory cues. In 2018, her group used cryo-electron microscopy to solve the atomic structure of an insect odorant receptor—a scientific first. Dr. Ruta’s work is also leading to novel strategies to prevent transmission of infectious insect-borne diseases.
Raised in New York City and Santa Fe, Vanessa Ruta studied classical ballet for several years before choosing a career in science. A Rockefeller graduate, she returned to the University as a head of lab in 2011 and was promoted to associate professor in 2017. In addition to the MacArthur Fellowship (colloquially known as the “genius” award), she has also been a New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Neuroscience Investigator and a recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.