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Setting up my own lab


Being in the right place at the right time
Eric Kandel Scientist
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I wrote this application to the NIH on analogues of learning, and you could say it's outrageous, it's amazing that the NIH would support it. But one has to realize, it was a completely different environment in 1962 than it is now. If you can read and write you were funded by the NIH. If you were serious about what you were doing, if you had a good laboratory to support you, there was very little question you would get [funded]. So I was very fortunate to come along at a good time. In fact, I would put it even more. I came along at a time in which the questions that interested me were unanswered, and I in my naïve way was addressing issues that were absolutely ripe to be answered. But somehow, practically no one else but me was addressing them in ways that could be productive. That was just so lucky, because it wasn't that I knew that much or was that smart, just sort of a combination of, you know, having psychiatry behind me, behavior didn't scare me. Having been successful with hippocampus, and the neuroendocrine cells, I had some confidence that I could do experiments. And then the feeling that Aplysia is likely to be a terrific system gave me courage to go ahead.

Eric Kandel (b. 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, 'If you want to understand the brain you're going to have to take a reductionist approach, one cell at a time.' Kandel then studied the neural system of the sea slug Aplysia californica, which has large nerve cells amenable to experimental manipulation and is a member of the simplest group of animals known to be capable of learning. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is also Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. Kandel's popularized account chronicling his life and research, 'In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind', was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: NIH, National Institutes of Health, Aplysia

Duration: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016