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Three top scientists join Salk faculty

The Salk Institute welcomes three new assistant professors who epitomize the next generation of outstanding scientists.

"The hiring of these exceptionally talented scientists will strengthen the Salk's efforts in conducting the most innovative research possible," says Salk president William R. Brody. "The Institute's ability to recruit them is a testament to the quality of the science conducted here. The new investigators recognize the benefits of our uniquely interactive environment for discovery."

Hu Cang

Hu Cang

Hu Cang

Hu Cang joins the Salk as assistant professor in the W aitt Advanced Biophotonics Center. Cang received his B.S. in chemical physics and obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University, working with Michael D. Fayer developing novel ultrafast optical spectroscopy. Currently he is a postdoctoral scientist working with Xiang Zhang on biophotonics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He has developed nanophotonic contrast enhancement agents for optical coherence tomography; this work is now exploited for cancer imaging. Cang also developed the first microscope to track single nanoparticles inside a cell.

Cang's future research plans include the development of new photonics tools to manipulate light at the nanoscale for bioimaging. His goal is to build miniature devices to measure protein conformational dynamics. He also plans to detect single fluorescent molecules in live mammalian cells. His appointment offers an outstanding opportunity to build new bridges to the bioengineering department at UC San Diego and to attract students and postdocs with backgrounds in physics, engineering and mathematics.

Xin Jin

Xin Jin

Xin Jin

Xin Jin was hired as assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and the Crick-Jacobs Center for Theoretical and Computational Biology. Jin received his undergraduate and graduate education in China, first training in physics as an undergraduate and then in systems neuroscience for his Ph.D. Since 2007, he has served as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, where he worked with Rui Costa on circuits in the basal ganglia that are involved in planning and executing motor movements. In this relatively short postdoctoral training period, he has emerged as a rising star, not only in this field, but generally in the field of circuits and behavior.

Jin will help to strengthen the interface between molecular and systems neuroscience. He is the first author on a Nature article and more recently has had a second first author paper under revision for publication in Nature. He was awarded the 2011 Gruber Prize for the best young neuroscientist by the Society for Neuroscience.

Nicola Allen

Nicola Allen

Nicola Allen

Nicola Allen will join Jin as an assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and the Crick-Jacobs Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology. Currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in the Department of Neurobiology, Allen received her undergraduate degree from the University of Manchester and her Ph.D. from University College London in England. During her thesis work, she trained with David Attwell, examining various aspects of central nervous system dysfunction during ischemia. For her postdoctoral work, she moved to the laboratory of Ben Barres at Stanford, where she initiated studies of astrocyte-derived factors that modulate synapse formation. Allen is an expert biochemist adept in proteomic analysis to isolate and identify factors produced by astrocytes that could potentially modulate synaptic formation and efficacy. This work, along with collaborations with other members of the Barres laboratory, has generated a number of high-profile papers in both Nature and Cell. Her own research lies at the interface of molecular and systems neurobiology, addressing an important but poorly understood aspect of brain development and function: how astrocytes contribute to the formation, maturation and stabilization of synaptic contacts. Combining strengths in physiology and biochemistry, she has a unique tool set for investigating how glia impact synaptic function. Her goal—to understand the mechanisms by which neural networks are formed during development and regulated during health and disease—complements existing neurobiological research taking place at the Salk.