McGovern Institute investigator Mark Harnett is one of six young researchers selected to receive a prestigious 2019 McKnight Scholar Award. The award supports his research “studying how dendrites, the antenna-like input structures of neurons, contribute to computation in neural networks.”
Harnett examines the biophysical properties of single neurons, ultimately aiming to understand how these relate to the complex computations that underlie behavior. His lab was the first to examine the biophysical properties of human dendrites. The Harnett lab found that human neurons have distinct properties, including increased dendritic compartmentalization that could allow more complex computations within single neurons. His lab recently discovered that such dendritic computations are not rare, or confined to specific behaviors, but are a widespread and general feature of neuronal activity.
“As a young investigator, it is hard to prioritize so many exciting directions and ideas,” explains Harnett. “I really want to thank the McKnight Foundation, both for the support, but also for the hard work the award committee puts into carefully thinking about and giving feedback on proposals. It means a lot to get this type of endorsement from a seriously committed and distinguished committee, and their support gives even stronger impetus to pursue this research direction.”
The McKnight Foundation has supported neuroscience research since 1977, and provides three prominent awards, with the Scholar award aimed at supporting young scientists, and drawing applications from the strongest young neuroscience faculty across the US. William L. McKnight (1887-1979) was an early leader of the 3M Company and had a personal interest in memory and brain diseases. The McKnight Foundation was established with this focus in mind, and the Scholar Award provides $75,000 per year for three years to support cutting edge neuroscience research.