Collaborations Draw Top Researchers Leaders To McLean

April 20, 2014

Despite coming from very different places geographically, two of the world’s most esteemed neuroscientists found opportunity half the world away in the very same place: McLean Hospital.

As a graduate student at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, Vadim Bolshakov, PhD, could not have predicted that his career path would lead him out of his home country to America. In fact, before accepting a post-doctoral position at Columbia University, Bolshakov had never even visited the United States.

Vadim Bolshakov, PhD, and Uwe Rudolph, Dr med
Vadim Bolshakov, PhD, and Uwe Rudolph, Dr med

“I was excited at the prospect of working at Columbia, where I could develop and possibly flourish under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Siegelbaum,” said Bolshakov. “After six years there, having published several high-profile papers, I knew that I was ready to take the next step. Fortunately, while I was coming to this realization, McLean was performing a national search for an assistant professor and invited me to interview. The rest is history.”

In 1997, Bolshakov made the move to McLean, where he founded the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, and today is considered one of the world’s foremost psychiatric neuroscientists.

“McLean has offered me many opportunities to expand my research and to collaborate with colleagues both within the hospital and globally,” said Bolshakov, whose influential work has advanced the understanding of fear mechanisms in the brain and how they influence conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. “Collaboration is an integral part of research because it allows us to build off of one another’s strengths in order to produce results that have great implications for the scientific community.”

“We are working together in order to advance our knowledge of the brain, and such advances may ultimately help to improve people’s lives,” said Uwe Rudolph, Dr med, director of the Laboratory of Genetic Neuropharmacology at McLean. “Today, most successful research is teamwork. My junior colleagues in the lab put in countless hours, doing all the experimental work and making valuable intellectual contributions.”

Like Bolshakov, Rudolph could have never predicted he would someday be one of McLean Hospital’s leading investigators. His path to Belmont started in Germany, where he completed both medical school and a research thesis in molecular pharmacology before receiving post-doctoral research training at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Cell Biology. It was at Baylor, under the mentorship of Lutz Birnbaumer, PhD, that he was first able to combine his medical background with his newly acquired skills in mouse molecular genetics.

His unique skills led him to the University of Zürich in Switzerland, where he applied the techniques he learned at Baylor to neuroscience.

“In Zürich, I was fortunate to land in a highly collaborative environment with excellent institutional resources that enabled me to pursue an untested and thus high-risk approach to generate new knowledge relevant for future drug development,” explained Rudolph.

Rudolph was recruited to McLean in 2005. His pioneering and innovative research on the functions of specific neurotransmitter receptor subtypes in the brain has led to important advances in designing novel therapeutic approaches to treat numerous disorders or conditions. Strategies based on research by Rudolph and colleagues to treat anxiety, spasticity and chronic pain are currently being pursued by the pharmaceutical industry.

In recent years, both Bolshakov and Rudolph have been recognized for their contributions to McLean, Harvard Medical School and the science community by being named professors of psychiatry by Harvard Medical School. Bolshakov was honored in 2012, while Rudolph was promoted in 2013.

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