‘Superb structural biologist’ chosen as McKnight Scholar

By Deborah Wormser

Dr. Ryan Hibbs, who seeks to learn in exquisite detail how brain cells communicate, says he’ll long remember the excitement of receiving back-to-back awards to further his work.

Ryan Hibbs, Ph.D.
Ryan Hibbs, Ph.D.

Within one recent week, the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience informed the Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Biophysics at UT Southwestern Medical Center of his selection for a McKnight Scholar Award, and he also learned of his selection for a 2014 Klingenstein-Simons Fund Fellowship.

“I found out about the McKnight via email on a Friday and about the second one the following Wednesday while taking my kids home from daycare. We celebrated by procuring fixings for ice cream sundaes,” he said.

Dr. Hibbs’ research focuses on understanding a family of proteins on the membranes of neurons (nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord) called neurotransmitter receptors. Those receptors are therapeutic targets in mental illness, addiction, and neurodegenerative disease. His investigations work to determine the proteins’ structures at an atomic level. The goal is to understand how the receptors work and to provide a molecular blueprint for designing potential treatments when they malfunction.

“Ryan is a superb structural biologist, who is taking on some of the most difficult and most important problems in the field. His results will dramatically improve our understanding of basic neuroscience, and could ultimately lead to new therapeutic agents,” said Dr. Michael Rosen, Chairman of Biophysics.

“I am particularly grateful to the Chairman of Neuroscience, Dr. Joseph Takahashi, for providing support to all levels of my research program and to Dr. Rosen for untiring mentoring,” Dr. Hibbs said. “Most of all I thank my lab members for providing all of the exciting preliminary data in this line of research and for making my job so enjoyable.”

The McKnight Scholar Awards are awarded by a Minnesota family foundation. The awards provide $75,000 annually for three years and seek to encourage early-career neuroscientists whose research focuses on disorders of learning and memory.

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Dr. Rosen holds the Mar Nell and F. Andrew Bell Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry.

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