Action Potential

CSHL neuroscience is shrinking

Although the Watson scandal was more public and hit faster, there has been another crisis brewing at CSHL for going on a year now that has been discussed in whispers at meetings and through emails, but let’s organize all of these free associations and questions into a single place and ask the big question:

What is going on with neuroscience at CSHL?

In the early years of this decade, the neuroscience community at CSHL was making such a name for itself that it was beginning to match the excellent reputation acquired by the entrenched genetics and cancer community there. A very productive group of labs stormed through a variety of problems, using a beautiful complement of model systems and approaches. Everything from molecular and physiology to systems and computational studies were streaming out of this motivated group. I should know, I was there.

Now, starting at the end of last year, there has been a steady retreat from the buildings along the Long Island sound. Here is an unofficial account of the movements:

Carlos Brody – to Princeton

Karel Svoboda – to Janelia Farm Research Campus

Zach Mainen – to Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (Lisbon)

Holly Cline – to Scripps Research Institute

Josh Huang – (rumored) to Columbia University

Dmitri Chklovskii – to Janelia Farm Research Campus

Robert Malinow – (rumored) to UCSD

Tim Tully – unknown, but likely somewhere in San Diego

That leaves Tony Zador, Linda van Aelst, Josh Dubnau, Partha Mitra, Yi Zhong and two new hires, Adam Kepecs and Glenn Turner, in the department. Granted, this group can still utilize a diversity of systems and techniques to address current questions in neuroscience, and are indeed a competent group, but why is CSHL dragging its feet to replace the rest of the lost labs? The irony is that during this entire exodus, the lab has undertaken a massive building program to expand their research programs into more practical spaces. As of now, it seems like these new buildings will not house more neuroscience research. Hopefully, CSHL will get its affairs in order and continue to hire more programs dedicated to neuroscience. They have started this process by adding Kepecs and Turner, but these young investigators can’t do it all by themselves, and it would be a shame to lose the momentum gathered by the previous group by downsizing the emphasis on neuroscience now. I hope that pruning back is not the long-term plan.


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    Rachel Eagle Reiter said:

    I like this blog b/c I just love an Enigma.

    Well, as long as J.D. stays there is still Hope for CSHL. He has so much Time and so much Potential: he should be second to Watson one day. So sorry to see R.M. go, though [as was J.W.]

    AS for those who are leaving, well, I believe you are apart of some kind of Scientific Diaspora.

    The Laboratorial Tribes have been scattered. Ha!

    Rachel Eagle Reiter

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    Rachel Eagle Reiter said:

    Change can be good. It’s a Time of Possibility. It was a joke about the Diaspora, but how about some Truth and Inspiration:

    Sometimes People choose a New Place. Sometimes there is Pressure to Go. Sometimes it feels like you are being Chased. Sometimes you are avoiding something that is hard to deal with. Sometimes you are running—but from what?

    What happens when we go out of one place and into another [out of the old and into the new] we often face the same [or similar] challenges. Because what we don’t realize is the battle is within.

    When we flee problems, but those problems seem to follow us or show up in a different form, we don’t escape; we don’t win.

    I trust, that each scientist made the best choice for him or her; I’m not going to say—one way or the other—whether it was good to go or good to stay. That depends on the Individual and the Circumstance.

    But, I will say, that there is Always Great Blessing for those Few who can Endure Hardship and Face it. There are always Rewards [and Great Ones] for People who stick it out when the going gets tough. True happiness comes when we are overcomers.


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    Barry Burbach said:

    It’s no secret that I didn’t like the tone of this post. The supposed “exodus” at CSHL was in fact each their own (very) personal stories, mostly offers that they couldn’t refuse, recognizing their very strong programs. CSHL has dragged it’s feet replacing because all of them dragged their feet leaving. ( I worked for or with everyone on that list) Last I heard, two of the new buildings are for neuroscience, as they were from the start and in fact this is THE place where young investigators do it all by themselves. Noah knows all of this. BTW, he left out Hiro Furukawa and Alex Koulakov on the new hire list.

    To update, Huang is still here, the whispers and emails have not stopped a great batch of applicants from trooping through this year and as Watson said, waving his hands in the air when I asked him about all of this “It was the greatest and we’ll do it again!”

    That’s what is going on with neuroscience at CSHL.

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    jim schoenberg said:

    hang in there barry, your old friend from highschool, Buck