Ian A. Meinertzhagen

Ian A. Meinertzhagen

Fellow: Awarded 2002
Field of Study: Neuroscience

Competition: US & Canada

Dalhousie University

Ian Meinertzhagen is currently a University Research Professor at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a part-time Visiting Scientist at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was born near Tunbridge Wells in England, and studied physiology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, before going on to commence a Ph.D. at the University of St. Andrews. With his then supervisor, Adrian Horridge, and other group members, he moved to establish a new department at the Research School of Biological Sciences of the Australian National University in Canberra, where he finished his Ph.D. and continued for two years as a postdoctoral fellow. From there, in 1973 he went to work as a senior postdoctoral fellow in the group of John Dowling, in the Biological Laboratories at Harvard University. From Cambridge, MA, he moved to his fourth adopted country and was appointed in 1975 as an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University, with a primary appointment in the Department of Psychology and with later cross appointments in both the Department of Biology and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. In 1977 he was a STEPS fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and in 1979 a Commonwealth University Interchange Award and Visiting Fellow, at the Australian National University. In 1997-2002 he was Izaak Walton Killam Professor in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, serving as Director of its Neuroscience Institute during the period 1999-2002. In addition to his Guggenheim Fellowship, he has also recently held a Killam Fellowship of the Canada Council.

He has served on various national committees for NSERC and the Canada Council, and as an officer in various societies, most recently as Secretary of the International Society for Neuroethology. He has published 150 scientific papers, taught on graduate training courses in various countries, and delivered numerous lectures and presentations. He continues to participate actively in collaborations with other scientists, in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

His work has pioneered studies on simple nervous systems of invertebrate species, especially the immaculately precise fly’s visual system and the diminutive nervous system of the ascidian tadpole larva, and has examined structurally identified circuits of neurons, their functional anatomy, their origins in both ontogeny and evolution, and their plasticity in adult animals. He has exploited fly photoreceptor synapses to analyse numerous questions that surround the developmental assembly and numerical regulation of synapses, as well as the function of neural genes, using primarily ultrastructural and neurochemical approaches. An underlying theme in his studies has been to resolve the exact patterns of synaptic connections, or wiring diagram, between identified neurons, and to investigate how these connections together constitute functional circuits that are the anatomical substrate for behaviour. For this he has extensively engaged serial-section methods of electron microscopy, by means of which he has gained widespread experience in the synaptic architecture of insect neuropiles. His expertise in these areas has since 2007 led to his part-time appointment as a visiting scientist at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, at Ashburn, Virginia.


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