Advisor Profiles

David J. Anderson, Ph.D.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dr. Anderson is the Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology, Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Leadership Chair, and Director of the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. He is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his A.B. from Harvard University (Biochemical Sciences, Summa Cum Laude), his Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the Rockefeller University, where he trained with Nobel Laureate Guenter Blobel, and his postdoctoral training at Columbia University with Nobel Laureate Richard Axel. For the first 20 years of his career, Dr. Anderson’s research focused on the biology of neural stem cells and their role in brain development; he was the first to isolate a multipotential neural stem cell from the mammalian nervous system. Beginning 15 years ago, Dr. Anderson switched his research focus to the study of neural circuits that control emotional behaviors in animal models. He has been at the forefront of developing and applying new technologies for neural circuit manipulation, such as optogenetics and pharmacogenetics, to the study of emotional behaviors in both mice and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. His work in mice is currently focused on subcortical circuits, including those involving the amygdala and hypothalamus, and their role in fear and aggression. His work on flies is centered on understanding how internal states control defensive and social behaviors, including aggression. Anderson has trained over 50 postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students in his 30 years on the faculty at Caltech. He has been a recipient of continuous research support from the NIH since 1986, and an HHMI Investigator since 1989. He has received additional funding from agencies and foundations such as NARSAD, the Pew Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation. Dr. Anderson’s awards include an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, Searle Scholars Award, the Charles Judson Herrick Award in Comparative Neurology, the Alden Spencer Award in Neurobiology from Columbia University, the Thomas Salmon Award from the New York Academy of Medicine and the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.