The National Science Foundation (NSF) bestowed its highest honor on Feng Zhang, Ph.D., by naming him the 2014 recipient of its Alan T. Waterman Award, which recognizes an outstanding researcher under the age of 35 and funds his or her research in any field of science or engineering. Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on trying to understand how the brain works.
Dr. Zhang, who works at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, has created and is continuing to perfect tools that are giving researchers more precise control over biological activities occurring inside the cell. With these tools, scientists will be able to deepen their understanding of how the genome works, and how it influences the development and function of the brain.
Although Zhang’s main area of focus is the brain, the potential applications of his use of CRISPR technology extend well beyond neuroscience. “This is an immensely exciting time for the field because of the tremendous potential of tools like CRISPR, which allows us to modify the genomes of mammalian cells,” said Dr. Zhang said. “One of my long-term goals is to better understand the molecular mechanisms of brain function and identify new ways to treat devastating neurological disorders.”
The Waterman award was presented to Dr. Zhang at an evening ceremony last night at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.