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President Obama Honors UW Biologist

Story by
Nancy Joseph
September 2012Perspectives Newsletter
Jay Parrish

Jay Z. Parrish, assistant professor of biology, has been named a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government for science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers, according to a press release issued from the White House.

The shape of a neuron is important for its function, and Parrish's laboratory studies how neurons maintain their characteristic shape. Recent investigations include how environmental cues influence the maintenance of dendrites, the branched structures that extend from a neuron's cell body to receive inputs from other neurons.

Many diseases of cognition, such as Down syndrome, are associated with progressive defects in dendrites. Parrish's team investigates the phenomenon of dendrite maintenance in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Many fundamental aspects of neuron development are shared by fruit flies and humans, therefore the studies could contribute to a better understanding of what happens in diseases of cognition.