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  • Paul H. Patterson, the late Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, Emeritus.
    Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications
07/03/2014 09:30:39

BBE Hosts Symposium to Honor Patterson

On June 30, the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering sponsored a neuroimmunology symposium dedicated to the life and career of Paul Patterson, the late Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, Emeritus, who died on June 25. The symposium, titled "From the Brain to the Body and Back: A Celebration of Paul Patterson's Life in Science," highlighted Patterson's work—as well how the fundamental findings from his research influenced the work of his former students, postdocs, and colleagues.

Caltech speakers at the symposium included David Anderson, Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology; Elaine Hsiao (PhD '13), senior research fellow; and Sarkis Mazmanian, Luis B. and Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology.

Anderson spoke about Patterson's work in stem-cell lineages and neuropoesis—the process through which neural stem cells differentiate into mature neurons—and how this work sparked his interest in neural stem cells and influenced his decision to join the Caltech faculty in 1986.

Hsiao, the most recent graduate-student alumnus from Patterson's research group, spoke about how Patterson was a dedicated mentor, expecting scientific rigor from members of his group, but also encouraging them to follow their curiosity. Not only did Patterson dedicate himself to understanding complex neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, Hsiao said, but he included in his concern the people affected by these disorders, directly engaging and communicating with the schizophrenia and autism communities through his blog.

Mazmanian, Patterson's longtime collaborator, reflected on Patterson's breadth of work over the course of a research career that spanned disciplines from membrane biochemistry to stem-cell differentiation to disease. A recent collaboration between Mazmanian and Patterson revealed that specific probiotic therapies might be a treatment option for the behavioral symptoms of autism. Before Patterson's death, the two were pursuing a clinical trial to test the therapy in humans; Mazmanian said that he intends to continue this pursuit in Patterson's honor.

Several other former Caltech graduate students and research fellows who worked in Patterson's laboratory also gave presentations on their research and memories, including former graduate student Mahendra Rao (PhD '91) of the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute; former research fellows Zaven Kaprielian of Amgen and Hiroyuki Nawa of the Niigata University Brain Research Institute; and Hiroshi Ueda of Nagasaki University, a former visiting scientist at Caltech.

For a full list of speakers and more information about the symposium, please visit the neuroimmunology symposium webpage.

Written by Jessica Stoller-Conrad