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U Biologist Gets Neuroscience Prize


Oct. 31, 2013 – Shigeki Watanabe, a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow in biology, has been awarded the Society for Neuroscience’s Nemko Prize for his accomplishments as a young scientist.

Shigeki works in the Utah laboratory of Erik Jorgensen, a distinguished professor of biology. He currently studies how nerve cell vesicles – tiny bubbles that contain neurotransmitter chemicals – are recycled after they help send a nerve signal from one nerve cell to the next.

The news release below was issued by the Society for Neuroscience.

— Contact: Kat Snodgrass, Society for Neuroscience, (202) 962-4090,


Watanabe Receives Nemko Prize in Cellular or Molecular Neuroscience

SAN DIEGO – The Society for Neuroscience has awarded the inaugural Nemko Prize to Shigeki Watanabe, Ph.D., of the University of Utah. This new prize acknowledges the achievements of a young scientist in recognition of an outstanding Ph.D. thesis advancing understanding of molecular, genetic or cellular mechanisms underlying brain function.

The prize, which includes $2,500, was established in 2013 by columnist, author and career coach Marty Nemko, Ph.D., on behalf of the Nemko family. The prize will be presented in November during Neuroscience 2013, the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

“Dr. Watanabe’s determination to test every detail to create the perfect experiment, not just an adequate one, has helped earn him the reputation of a gifted young scientist,” said Larry Swanson, Ph.D., president of the society. “We are happy to honor his advances in cellular neuroscience and look forward to his future contributions to the field.”

Watanabe, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Utah, made two major advances to the field as part of his doctoral thesis, both of which required the invention of new methods and devices. He developed new experimental methods in electron microscopy to localize fluorescently labeled proteins within cellular structures, allowing him the ability to place labeled proteins into cellular context. Additionally, Watanabe combined optogenetics with a high-pressure freezing technique to probe how synaptic vesicles are recycled within cells. His studies revealed that vesicles are recycled orders of magnitude faster than previously imagined.

Watanabe is currently a postdoctoral trainee at the University of Utah.

The Society for Neuroscience is an organization of nearly 42,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.