BILL HARRIS Neuroscience

Bill Harris image 2
College positions
Emeritus Fellow
University positions
Emeritus Professor of Anatomy
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The challenge that occupied me throughout my career is how the most complicated object in the known world, the brain, is built.   I started investigating neural development when I was a graduate student at Caltech (1972-1976) and I discovered genes that were involved in building the eye.  As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School (1976-1980), I began investigating the role of activity patterns in the brain in the formations of synaptic connections.  I landed my first academic job at the University of California San Diego in 1980, where I worked on questions concerning how neurons send out long processes called axons that navigate through the embryonic brain to find their synaptic targets.  In 1997, I moved to Cambridge.  Here, I was particularly fascinated by questions of how the neurons in the brain choose their individual and cell-specific fates.

During my career, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with many wonderful scientists here and around the world.  After I retired from laboratory work, I wrote a popular science book about neural development called Zero to Birth: How the Human Brain is Built.  I still enjoy supervising students studying Neurobiology at Clare College.

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