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June 11, 2019

Peter Jonas elected member of EMBO

Number of EMBO members at IST Austria rises to 8

The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) promotes excellence in the life sciences. Today it announced the election of 56 outstanding life scientists as new members who are joining a group of more than 1800 of the best researchers in Europe and around the world. One of them is IST Austria Professor Peter Jonas whose outstanding research achievements in the field of neuroscience, in particular for his significant contribution to the understanding of synaptic signal processing at the molecular and cellular level, were honored by EMBO with the life-long membership.

IST Austria Professor Peter Jonas in his lab

Peter Jonas investigates the function of neuronal microcircuits. Understanding them is one of the greatest challenges in biosciences in the 21st century, as the human brain consists of about one hundred billion neurons connected at billions (1015) of contact points.

These contact points between neurons, called synapses, are divided into two types: excitatory synapses, which secrete the neurotransmitter glutamate, and inhibitory synapses, which secrete the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Peter Jonas’s research group investigates the mechanisms of synaptic signals at these highly specialized contact sites in the brain. For this purpose, they use state-of-the-art methods, including recording methods for several cells, subcellular patch-clamp technique, imaging methods to determine intracellular calcium concentration and modelling.

Peter Jonas investigates the relationship between structure and function of synapses. Among other things, he was able to show the amazing energy efficiency of signal transmission. His research on mechanisms of storage, retrieval and differentiation of memories in the hippocampus, a brain region essential for memory, can also contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying brain diseases. 

With Peter Jonas being elected, IST Austria has now eight EMBO members among its professors. The other faculty members who are members of EMBO are: Leonid Sazanov, Jiri Friml, Nick Barton, Michael Sixt, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg, Eva Benkova, and Mario de Bono.

About the person

Peter Jonas completed his medical studies at the University of Giessen in 1987. From 1988-1989 he was postdoc at the Physiological Institute of the University of Giessen, and from 1990-1994 research assistant in the group of Nobel Prize winner Bert Sakmann at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. After his habilitation in 1992 at the University of Heidelberg and a further station at the TU Munich, he was professor and head of the Physiological Institute at the University of Freiburg from 1995-2010. In 2010, Peter Jonas became the first neuroscientist to be appointed to IST Austria; he has since been involved as professor in the development of the institute.

Peter Jonas is a member of the National Academy Leopoldina, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and the Academia Europaea. Peter Jonas has been awarded the Schrödinger Prize by the ÖAW (2018), the Wittgenstein Prize of the FWF (2016), the Adolf Fick Prize (2009), the Tsungming Tu Prize (Taiwan, 2007), the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the DFG (2006), the Heinz Maier Leibnitz Prize (1994) and the Max Planck Research Prize for International Cooperation (1998). Jonas received ERC Advanced Grants in 2011 and 2016.


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