New director at the institute

Herwig Baier will come to Martinsried to continue his research

June 14, 2011
Last week, Herwig Baier signed the contract as Director at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. Up to now, the renowned neurobiologist was working and teaching at the University of California in San Francisco. He will come to Martinsried in September 2011, accompanied by his family and some of his staff. At the MPI of Neurobiology, he will found and head the Department of Genes-Neurons-Behavior. Central to his research is the question of how neuronal networks govern behavior.

Herwig Baier

Herwig Baier was born in 1965 in Münster and studied Biology at the University of Konstanz. He earned his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen. Afterwards, he worked at the University of California in San Diego. In 1998 he became Assistant Professor in San Francisco, where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2007. Beginning in September 2011, he will work as Director at the MPI of Neurobiology in Martinsried.

Herwig Baier is interested in the rules that govern the development of certain types of nerve cells in the brain, the assembly of complex neuronal networks, and the contribution of these networks to sensory perception and behavior. "In short, we hope to gain insights into the genetic architecture of behavior", summarizes Herwig Baier. The model system for his studies is the zebrafish Danio rerio. "This fish is perfect for our investigations", explains Baier. The fish are comparatively easy to keep and breed. However, their main advantage lies in the fact that the brain of young zebrafish is completely transparent. Changes in the nerve cells and their connections can thus be studied directly under the microscope in the living animal. Much is known about the genetics and behavior of this fish, which enables the neurobiologist to genetically alter individual neuronal networks and to assign the resulting changes to specific areas. Herwig Baier’s studies are primarily focused on the development and function of the neuronal circuits mainly in the visual system. The success and value of his studies have already been acknowledged by a number of awards and prizes. Among these are a Fellowship of the Packard-Foundation, the Klingenstein Award, the Byers Award for Basic Science Research and an HFSP Program Award

Herwig Baier’s scientific interests nicely complement the ongoing research at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. The existing departments at the institute already investigate questions about the development of neuronal networks, the processing of sensory information in the brain and the neuronal foundations of behavior. These studies focus on the nervous system of flies and mice. The results of Herwig Baier's studies from the fish nervous systems will thus be an ideal extension of this research. The combined results will greatly enhance our understanding of the overall functions of the brain and nervous system. "We are very happy to have Herwig Baier, the world's leading expert in his field of research, now as a colleague at our institute", states Tobias Bonhoeffer, the Managing Director of the MPI of Neurobiology. Already, there are lots of ideas for joint projects between the groups. And Herwig Baier is also looking forward to his future work in the Würmtal: "The MPI in Martinsried is one of the world's leading institutions in neuroscientific research. I am thrilled about the opportunities that will open up for our research here."

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