R&D Magazine today introduced its annual Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and its Innovator of the Year Award winner, Dr. Hugh Herr.
As R&D Magazine's 49th Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Deisseroth is a leading researcher in the rapidly growing field of optogenetics, having invented several new technologies in support of efforts to understand neural functions in the human brain. The D. H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford Univ., Dr. Deisseroth achieved widespread recognition in 2005 for publishing the first demonstration of the use of light-sensitive receptors, called opsins, to reliably control the action of neurons. He coined the term "optogenetics" in 2006 to describe this new field and in 2009 joined Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an investigator in neuroscience and physiology.
In addition, Dr. Deisseroth is a psychiatric clinician at Stanford, employing electromagnetic brain stimulation techniques in human patients for therapeutic purposes. In 2013, he published work on a new technology called CLARITY that makes biological tissues translucent and accessible to nuclear probes.
Dr. Deisseroth's selection as R&D Magazine's 2014 Scientist of the Year recognizes these career accomplishments, particularly his twin discoveries of optogenetics and CLARITY technology, as being critical to the understanding of neurology and potentially crucial in the development of new therapies and treatments of neural diseases.
As R&D Magazine's 14th Innovator of the Year Award honoree, Dr. Herr heads the Biomechanics research group at the MIT Media Lab, where he is creating bionic limbs that emulate the function of natural limbs. In 2011 TIME magazine coined Herr the "Leader of the Bionic Age" because of his revolutionary work in the emerging field of biomechatronics—technology that marries human physiology with electromechanics. A double amputee himself, Herr is responsible for breakthrough advances in bionic limbs that provide greater mobility and new hope to those with physical disabilities.
Dr. Herr's research group has developed gait-adaptive knee prostheses for transfemoral amputees and variable impedance ankle-foot exoskeletons for patients suffering from drop foot, a gait pathology caused by stroke, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. He has also designed his own bionic legs, the world's first bionic foot and calf system called the BiOM. Dr. Herr is also founder of the company iWalk (BiOM) and has helped war veterans and some of the victims from the Boston Marathon bombings walk again through the use of his developed prosthetics.
About the Scientist of the Year Award
The Scientist of the Year is R&D Magazine's longest-running individual award, being given to some of history's most accomplished researchers since 1966. The award recognizes career accomplishments in scientific research and technology development, spanning nearly disciplines from physics to medicine to chemistry. Recent winners include James Tour of Rice Univ. (2013), Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2012), and Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy (2011).
About the Innovator of the Year Award
R&D Magazine's Innovator of the Year Award has been presented to some of history's most accomplished inventors since 2001. The award recognizes career accomplishments in scientific research and technology development, spanning disciplines from medical technology to information technology. Recent winners include the NASA Curiosity Team, David Ferrucci, Cameron Piron (2008), Elon Musk (2007), Dean Kamen (2006), Larry Page (2002) and Dr. Stuart Parking (2001).