For Rockefeller graduate students there is labwork, and there is coursework. This year, the university recognizes two teachers who have devoted substantial time, energy, and creativity to designing and leading one of the most challenging and innovative courses within the university’s graduate curriculum: Gaby Maimon, assistant professor and head of the Laboratory of Integrative Brain Function, and Vanessa Ruta, Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Assistant Professor and head of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior. They were presented with the university’s Distinguished Teaching Awards at this year’s Convocation luncheon.
Dr. Maimon and Dr. Ruta, both of whom joined Rockefeller in 2011, co-organize the Membrane
Biophysics Course. Since its inception in 1992, the course’s format requires exceptional involvement
and commitment from both the instructors and the students, who participate in alternating two-hour
lectures and daylong labs for its six-week duration. The course’s lecture topics are biophysical aspects of the structure, function, and regulation of ion channels and transporters, and their roles in shaping electrical activity in cells. The labs involve a series of increasingly sophisticated electrophysiological experiments.
In taking over the course last spring from David Gadsby and Sandy Simon, who organized it for nearly 20 years, Dr. Ruta and Dr. Maimon saw the material from a student’s perspective—Dr. Ruta passed the course with distinction in 2001 as a Rockefeller student, and Dr. Maimon took the course himself in 2011 and also helped administer the individual, two-hour oral examinations at its culmination.
“Vanessa and Gaby’s willingness to organize this course is a real testament to their commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation of young scientists,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the university’s president. “Their dedication to teaching is an inspiration.”