Research into the sense of touch in worms wins Eppendorf/Science Prize


Young neurobiologists honored

Washington, D.C. Dr. Miriam B. Goodman has been awarded the 2004 international Prize in Neurobiology by the journal Science and Eppendorf. She is being recognized for her research using worms to learn how the sense of touch works on a molecular level.

The Eppendorf and Science Prize in Neurobiology recognizes outstanding neurobiological research by a young scientist, as described in a 1,000 word essay based on research performed within the last three years. The grand prize winner receives $25,000 from Eppendorf, and the winner's essay will be published in the 15 October 2004 issue of Science.

Two finalist essays will be published at Science Online ( The awardee and finalists will be recognized at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in October.

Humans rely heavily on their sense of touch, and reduced touch sensation is common in people with diabetes and is a leading factor in lower-extremity amputation. However, scientists know very little about the molecular basis of touch, mainly because studying the sensory nerves that detect touch are deeply embedded under the skin, making it more difficult to study them. Goodman's essay explains her research on the nematode worm's sense of touch. Known as Caenorhabditis elegans, the entire cellular anatomy of its nervous system is known. Scientists hope to apply their knowledge about the nematode's sense of touch to larger and more complex animals.

Goodman grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, and Bethesda, Maryland, writing scientific software in research labs at the NIH as a high school student. She earned a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Brown University in 1986. After being awarded her Ph. D. in 1995 from The University of Chicago, she pursued postdoctoral work in C. elegans neurophysiology and genetics at the University of Oregon and Columbia University. Currently, Dr. Goodman is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. Work in her laboratory focuses on delineating the molecular events that give rise to the sense of touch.

The finalists are:

Kang Shen, for his essay "Synaptic Matchmakers: Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Specificity." Dr. Shen studied clinical medicine at Tongji Medical University of China. After graduating in 1994, he joined the graduate program at Duke University. Following receiving his Ph.D. in 1999, he pursued postdoctoral work in Dr. Cornelia Bargmann's lab at the University of California San Francisco. Dr. Shen started his own lab at Stanford University in 2003, focusing on understanding molecular mechanisms of synaptic target specificity.

Qin Shen, for her essay "Preventing Aging In Neural Stem Cells: Regulating Asymmetric Versus Symmetric Cell Divisions." Dr. Shen earned her Bachelor's degree in Pharmacology from Shanghai Medical University in 1991. In 1996, she entered the graduate program in Neuroscience at Albany Medical College, New York. Her Ph.D. project, completed in 2001, focused on asymmetric cell division and the generation of cell diversity in the embryonic murine cerebral cortex. She is now a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Sally Temple's laboratory working on mechanisms regulating neural stem cell self-renewal and cell fate choices, including interactions between neural stem cells and endothelial niche cells.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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