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02.21.2017

Neuroscientist John Tuthill named 2017 Sloan Fellow

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced today, Feb. 21, that UW Medicine neuroscience researcher John Tuthill is among three faculty members at the University of Washington who have been awarded early-career Sloan Fellowships. Tuthill is an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at the UW School of Medicine.

Open to scholars in eight scientific and technical disciplines, the fellowships honor early-career scholars whose achievements mark them as the next generation of scientific leaders. Scholars are chosen from the fields of chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. This year there are 126 new Sloan Fellows. They come from 60 institutions across the United States and Canada.

John Tuthill
John Tuthill
John Tuthill

Tuthill  explores how the nervous system detects and decodes mechanical signals to guide movement and behavior.  From the rat whose whiskers let it slip through building eaves, to an insect landing on a leaf, animals use mechanosensory clues to navigate.

The Tuthill Lab studies the tiny nervous system of the fruit fly, Drosophila. The lab records neural activity from the fruit fly brain with electrophysiology and 2-photon imaging, while manipulating neural circuit function with advanced genetic tools. By combining these techniques with fine-scale analysis of fly behavior, the lab seeks to understand how activity in neural circuits senses and coordinates body movements.

The Tuthill Lab hopes to identify fundamental sensory and motor function principles that could illuminate underlying mechanisms of human movement disorders and pathological sensory conditions, such as chronic pain. Despite the apparent differences between flies and humans, the basic building blocks of the nervous system are the same.

While he was a doctoral student at Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Janelia, Tuthill studied how the fly brain detects visual motion. Later, as a Harvard Medical School postdoctoral fellow, he pioneered studies of touch processing in the fly. He joined the UW medical school faculty in 2016.

Candidates for the Sloan Fellows for 2017 were nominated by their fellow scientists. Independent panels of senior scholars select the winning fellows based on each candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field. Each fellow will receive $60,000 to apply toward research endeavors

Tuthill joins Ali Farhadi, assistant professor of computer science and engineering; Emily Levesque, assistant professor of astronomy, among the 2017 UW Sloan Fellows. 

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