UW News

February 23, 2011

Nobel Laureate Erwin Neher to give Hille Lecture in Neurosciences March 1

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

1991 Nobel Laureate Erwin Neher will speak at the UW March 1.

1991 Nobel Laureate Erwin Neher will speak at the UW March 1.

Neher will speak on “Biophysics of Short-Term Synaptic Plasticity” on Tuesday, March 1 at 3:30 p.m. in room S-060 of the W.H. Foege Genome Sciences Building.  The lecture is free.

Neher earned a baccalaureate in physics from the Technische Hochshule in Munich, and later a Master of Science degree in physics from the University of Wisconsin as a Fulbright Scholar in 1967.  He returned to Munich intent on pursuing a doctoral project in biophysics with an emphasis on nerve excitation. His search led him to Dr. Dieter Luxs laboratory at the Max-Planck Institut for Psychiatry and a dissertation project measuring membrane currents from the somatic surface of snail neurons.

During his tenure as a graduate student, Neher befriended Dr. Bert Sakmann, who was pursing doctoral studies at the same institute. They met again at the Max-Planck Institute in Göttingen in 1973, and began a collaboration aimed at developing a technique for measuring the ionic currents generated by single membrane channels.

By 1976,  Neher and Sakmann published their first single channel recordings from frog muscle fibers in the journal Nature and over the next several years, refined and developed several single-channel recording techniques that have had an immeasurable impact on our understanding of membrane channel behavior.

After 1983, Nehers research shifted away from membrane channels to the molecular processes they initiate inside cells, particularly the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters. He has employed cell cultures and brain slices for studying the mechanisms through which the efficacy of chemical transmission between nerve cells is altered by prior activity.  Nehers lecture will review his latest findings in this area.

Neher has received numerous awards for his scientific work including the K.C. Cole Award in 1982, the Louisa Gross-Horwitz Prize in 1986, the Gairdner International Award in l989, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Research Award in Neurosciences in 1990 and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with Sakmann) in 1991. In addition. Neher has been awarded doctorates honoris causa from many of the worlds leading research universities.


The Einar Hille Memorial Lecture in Neurosciences was established by the late Kirsti Hille in honor of her husband.  Dr. Einar Hille was a professor of Mathematics at Yale University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  Dr. Bertil Hille, son of Einar and Kirsti Hille, is the Wayne E. Crill Professor of Physiology & Biophysics at the University of Washington