Max Planck Florida Institute scientist awarded grant for autism-related research
The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience announced today that Hyungbae Kwon has been awarded a $60,000 grant to fund two years of research related to Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Kwon, who joined the Max Planck Florida Institute in 2012, is studying proteins called neuroligins, whose mutations were found in some autism patients. His work explores how neuroligins contribute to synapse formation to help answer questions about neural circuit development and structural plasticity relating to the development of ASD.
At the Max Planck Florida Institute, Kwon leads the research group exploring the Cellular Basis of Neural Circuit Plasticity. His team uses two-photon laser microscopy, a cutting-edge tool that allows scientists to look deep into living tissue at individual synapses. “We have the technical specialty to monitor the biological event happening at a single synapse. Not many people have that capability,” Kwon said.
His long-term goal is to decipher how the architecture of neuronal connectivity is properly constructed and revised by constantly changing environmental experiences during early brain development. Autism often appears at age 2 or 3, when the brain is rapidly growing.
The Young Investigators grant, which begins in January 2014, is part of $11.8 million in awards from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation to 200 young scientists around the world.
Kwon’s award is the latest in a series of scientific grants announced by the Max Planck Florida Institute. This year, researchers have been awarded more than $8.1 million by the National Institutes of Health and other organizations, including Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Before joining the Max Planck Florida Institute, the first and only U.S.-based institute that is part of Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Society, Kwon served a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. He earned his PhD at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. He graduated from Korea University earning a B.S. in 1997 and an M.S. degree in Biochemistry in 1999.
He is the recipient of numerous honors, including The Society for Neuroscience Chapter Graduate Student Award; Association of Korean Neuroscientists Outstanding Research Award; and the 13th Julius Marmur Research Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.