Michael Ehlers is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and George Barth Geller Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University where he has been since 1998. His research explores how brain cells adapt to changing environments and store information at a molecular level. He has pioneered cell biological studies on the plasticity of synapses, a process fundamental to brain development, learning, and memory. His research has provided important insight into how brain cells grow, connect, and communicate, and has advanced our understanding of basic brain mechanisms that go awry in addiction, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and neurodevelopmental disorders. More recently, he has forged mouse models of neural circuit manipulation in the intact brain that hold promise for decoding complex brain functions.
Born in Germany and raised in rural Nebraska, Ehlers received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1991 at Caltech before pursuing graduate and medical studies in neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Huganir. He has received numerous awards and international recognition in neuroscience and cell biology. In 2003, Dr. Ehlers received the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology for the most outstanding neurobiological research by a young scientist. He was the recipient of the 2007 John J. Abel Award in Pharmacology given to a single young investigator under forty, and the 2007 Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award for outstanding research in neuroscience, among others. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Neuroscience, the Journal of Biological Chemistry and is Associate Editor of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. When not researching brain plasticity, he plays French horn, is an accomplished pianist, and disappears on occasion for extended backpacking and kayaking.