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Salk promotes three outstanding scientists

Clodagh O’Shea, John Reynolds and Tatyana Sharpee

From left to right: Clodagh O'Shea, John Reynolds and Tatyana Sharpee

Three Salk faculty members received welcome news in mid-April: all were promoted, based on recommendations by their faculty colleagues and by the Institute's non-resident fellows.

John Reynolds, in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratories, was promoted to full professor. His research explores the fundamental nature of the computations that are carried out by the neocortex, including those that enable us to attend to sensory stimuli. He seeks to understand how and why these computations fail in brain disease—research that is essential to developing treatments for disorders in which attention and vision are impaired, such as visual agnosia, Balint's syndrome, visual neglect, attentional aspects of autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.

Clodagh O'Shea, of the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, was promoted to associate professor. O'Shea is an expert on oncolytic viruses— viruses that can only reproduce in cancer cells. Such viruses offer a novel and potentially self-perpetuating cancer therapy: each time a virus infects a cancer cell and successfully multiplies, the virus ultimately kills the cancer cell by bursting it open to release thousands of viral progeny . The next generation seeks out remaining tumor cells and distant micro-metastases but leaves normal cells unharmed. O'Shea is at the forefront of this cutting-edge technology.

Tatyana Sharpee was also promoted to associate professor. Working in the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, she studies the brain's operation in a natural sensory environment, formulating theoretical principles of how it processes information. Using methods from physics and information theory, Sharpee and her colleagues are developing statistical methods that can help identify how the brain can rapidly recognize objects despite variations in their position relative to us. This work may eventually lead to better prostheses for patients whose object recognition has been impaired as a result of a stroke or neurodegenerative disease.