Renowned Neurobiology Professor to Present Songbird Research

Posted: September 13, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Many biology professors and students at Mason may recognize the name Erich Jarvis — a scientist featured in the textbooks used in Biology 213 and 303.

Jarvis, a highly acclaimed neurobiology professor at the Duke University Medical Center, comes to Mason’s Fairfax Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 18, to present his research on the neurobiology of vocal communication among animals, primarily that of songbirds. The presentation is open to all and begins at 8 p.m. in Harris Theater.

The event is sponsored by the Health Professions Advising Office and the Undergraduate-Faculty Apprenticeship Program.

Jarvis’s research emphasizes molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. The preferred animal model is the songbird because it is one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn their vocalizations.

Jarvis will explain recent findings showing that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression.

“[Jarvis] is the epitome of the modern scientist, crossing between disciplines and ideas, and blending his enormous sense of creativity learned at a very young age and applying it to get the very most from scientific experimentation,” said Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), after Jarvis was given the Alan T. Waterman Award in 2002.

In addition to the Waterman Award — the NSF’s highest honor for a young researcher —Jarvis received the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award in 2005 and was listed as one of the “Brilliant 10 Scientists” in the Oct. 2006 issue of Popular Science.

Jarvis began working at Duke University in 1998. He received his PhD in 1995 from the Rockefeller University, where he began his research on songbirds.

Write to at