Public Release: 

Carnegie Mellon University neurobiologist Justin Crowley receives Searle Scholar Award

Carnegie Mellon University

PITTSBURGH--Carnegie Mellon University neurobiologist Justin Crowley has been named a 2004 Searle Scholar. The Searle program supports the research of junior faculty with outstanding potential in the fields of chemistry, medicine and the biological sciences. One of only 15 exceptional young scientists receiving the award, Crowley is an assistant professor of biological sciences at the Mellon College of Science.

Crowley conducts research on the formation of neural circuits, the intricate network of connections neurons make with one another. The three-year, $240,000 award will allow him to extend his research on the formation of neural circuits in the primary visual cortex, the region of the brain that initially processes visual signals.

"This grant will support my research on understanding what cues direct neurons to form functional circuitry during the development of the visual system and throughout development in general," said Crowley. "Such research ultimately could impact our understanding of how neurons form connections during normal development. It also could lead to treatment options for repairing damage to the circuitry of the nervous system caused by traumatic injury or disease."

"Justin Crowley is a very promising young neuroscientist who bridges well between our college's emphasis on molecular events in biology and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition's emphasis on higher order events in cognition. We are very pleased with the strength and dynamism of the young interactive group of neuroscientists we've recruited into our department," added Elizabeth Jones, professor and head of Biological Sciences at the Mellon College of Science.

To monitor the dynamic structural changes neurons undergo to form connections with surrounding neurons, Crowley uses multi-photon laser-scanning microscopy. This technique tracks fluorescently labeled neurons over hours, days or weeks. Using multi-photon laser-scanning microscopy, Crowley can examine the structure and function of living neurons in real time as they develop and change. This time-lapse imaging represents a significant advantage over conventional methods that allow the study of neurons at only a single point in their development, according to Crowley.

The Searle Scholars Program was established at the Chicago Community Trust in 1980 and is funded from the estates of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Searle. Grants are made to selected academic institutions to support the independent research of outstanding individuals who are in the first or second year of their first appointment at the assistant professor level, and whose current appointment is a tenure-track position. The 348 current and former Searle Scholars pursue their research in many of the top institutions in the United States and in Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


The Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon University maintains innovative research and educational programs in biological sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics and several interdisciplinary areas.

For more information, please contact Amy Pavlak at 412-268-8619 or

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