Silvia Arber, currently one of the most successful Swiss biologists, is both Professor of Neurobiology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and a research group leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI). Since the start of her research career, she aims to answer fundamental questions on how neuronal circuits are established and function.
Arber studied biology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, and subsequently carried out her PhD thesis in Prof. Pico Caroni’s laboratory at the FMI. Already then her research activities received recognition: Her doctoral thesis was honored with two awards. Sponsored by a long-term fellowship awarded by the «Human Frontier Science Program», Arber subsequently joined Prof. Thomas Jessell’s laboratory at Columbia University in New York, to investigate mechanisms of neuronal maturation in the spinal cord. In 2000, she was appointed to the University of Basel where she conducts a successful research team at the Biozentrum and the FMI. During her career she has been distinguished with numerous important research awards, among them the Pfizer Research Prize (1998), the National Latsis Prize (2003) as well as both Schellenberg Prize (2005) and the Friedrich Miescher Award (2008). In 2010, Arber secured one of the much sought after "ERC Advanced Investigator Grants" from the European Research Council (ERC).
Arber is interested in neuronal circuits controlling motor behavior. In recent years, her research has led to the important discovery that the motor system is comprised of functional modules at various levels, ensuring the precise interplay between neurons and muscles. This year, the neurobiologist and her team published findings on how neuronal circuits coordinate precise movements of arm and hand in the prestigious scientific journals "Cell" and "Nature". The scientists discovered that commands in the spinal cord are directed simultaneously towards muscles and the brain. This ensures constant monitoring of the chain of commands, contributing to accurate execution of motor tasks. Furthermore, they also demonstrated that a sophisticated connection matrix between the brainstem and spinal cord controls movement and that a specialized region in the brainstem steers the grasping action of the hand. With her work, the Swiss scientist provides important contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms and organizational principles underlying the establishment and function of motor circuits.
Silvia Arber is the second scientist from the Biozentrum to be honored with the Otto Naegeli Prize. In 1982, Prof. em. Walter Gehring received this special honor as well. The prize, endowed with 200’000 Swiss francs, is announced every other year to honor outstanding scientists in the field of medical and biomedical research. It is one of the most highly regarded prizes in science. The Otto Naegeli Foundation initiated the prize in 1960, in memory of the internationally renowned physician and research scientist Otto Naegeli, with the goal of stimulating medical research in Switzerland.
The award ceremony will take place on May 28th, 2014, in the “Alte Aula” of University of Basel located in the Natural History Museum of Basel (Naturhistorisches Museum).
Contact: Communications, Katrin Bühler