SGP 73rd ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM / SOBLA ANNUAL MEETING "Structural Basis of Electrical Signaling in the Nervous System and Heart"
Friend of Physiology Lecture 2019
In honor of Drs. Clay Armstrong and Clara Franzini-Armstrong
Dr. Francisco (Pancho) Bezanilla earned an undergraduate biology degree as well as master’s and Ph.D. degrees in biophysics, all from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Initially intending to earn a medical degree, he shifted his focus to research and the Ph.D. program, finding that he liked how neurophysiology combined two of his interests, electronics and biology. Dr. Bezanilla conducted research on the nerve cells of Humboldt squid at the Montemar Institute of Marine Biology.
Leaving Chile for the United States in 1969, Dr. Bezanilla completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Institutes of Health. While in the US, he heard that the Humboldt squid was no longer available in Chilean waters. Also noting the political changes in Chile under Augusto Pinochet, he decided to stay in the US. Working on gating current experiments, he became a frequent collaborator with Clay Armstrong, who he had met at Montemar. In experiments at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, Bezanilla and Armstrong built their own signal averaging device and became the first to measure the tiny gating currents in sodium channels.
In 1977, Dr. Bezanilla became a neuroscience professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and later joined the University of Chicago, becoming the Lillian Eichelberger Cannon Professor in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Bezanilla was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. He was the 2013-2014 president of the Biophysical Society. Some of his recent work includes the application of light pulses to gold nanoparticles to activate neurons.
SOBLA Lecture 2019
Dr. L. Mario Amzel received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Physical Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. When he was completing his doctorate, the military staged a coup of the government and shortly afterwards evacuated the University buildings and replaced all authorities with military-selected personnel. Dr. Amzel, like most of the faculty members and TAs at the School of Sciences, resigned his position and sought opportunities abroad with significant help from colleagues around the world. Dr. Amzel accepted a post-doctoral position in the laboratory of Dr. R. J. Poljak at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to work on protein crystallography. Dr. Amzel contributed to the determination of the first structure of an immunoglobulin fragment. He remained at Hopkins, was promoted to Professor of Biophysics in 1984, and became Director of the Department in 2006. Over the course of his career at Hopkins, Dr. Amzel has investigated a great many systems, emphasizing structure determination as a means of elucidating mechanisms and their relation to thermodynamic principles. These systems include, among others, immunoglobulin binding and specificity, lectins, ATP-synthase, lipoxygenase, quinone reductase, peptidylglycine amidating monooxygenase, NUDIX hydrolases, phosphoinositide-3-kinase, and more recently, the sodium/iodide symporter and complexes of the C-terminus of Nav channels with calmodulin.
Dr. Amzel has received many awards and recognitions for his work, including a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellowship; was named Honorary Professor at the University of Buenos Aires; and received the RAICES Prize from the Argentinian Ministry of Science. He was President of SOBLA from 2003 to 2005 and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the Biophysical Society.