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Manuel Zimmer selected HHMI-Wellcome International Research Scholar

09 May 2017

Neuroscientist Manuel Zimmer, a group leader at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna, has been selected as HHMI-Wellcome International Research Scholar. His work on C. elegans worms aims to uncover how the brain processes information to generate behavior.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation have established an international program to develop scientific talent around the world. Together, they identify outstanding scientists early in their careers from a wide variety of biomedical research fields. By supporting each of them with $650,000 over five years, they provide the freedom to pursue new research directions and creative projects that could develop into top-notch scientific programs.

IMP-Group Leader Manuel Zimmer is among the forty-one scientists who have been chosen as International Research Scholars in 2017. The selection was preceded by the evaluation of more than 1,400 applications by a panel of renowned scientists. Through this distinction, Manuel Zimmer will become part of an international network of exceptional early-career scientists that are expected to advance biomedical research worldwide.

Manuel Zimmer’s research addresses a fundamental question in neuroscience: how do neural circuits in the brain compute information to interpret the sensory world, make decisions and generate competent behaviors? To answer this question, the Zimmer-lab uses the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. The worm is an ideal model since it has a stereotypic nervous system of only 302 neurons, all of them mapped and well defined.

Using a whole-brain imaging approach developed in his lab, Manuel Zimmer and his team can record the activity of all neurons of the animal, in real-time and with single cell resolution. This enables them to perform computer analyses of both, how the brain acts a whole as well as at the level of its individual neuronal units; thereby, reading the mind of the worm. These experiments will provide useful working hypotheses to understand how larger brains are organized. Understanding the fundamental computations of neural circuits is also essential for elucidating the mechanisms behind psychiatric disorders such as autism or schizophrenia.

“The International Research Scholar Award will be a crucial step towards this goal”, says Manuel Zimmer. “It will provide me with extra financial support to develop new technologies and to attract excellent researchers to my lab who will engage in these projects.”

Manuel Zimmer has been a group leader at the IMP since 2010. Prior to his current position, he was a postdoc in the lab of Cori Bargmann at the University of San Francisco and the Rockefeller University in New York. For his PhD-studies, he carried out research at the EMBL-Heidelberg and the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried. Manuel Zimmer obtained his PhD-degree from the LMU Munich.

Find out more about the Zimmer-Lab

find out more about International Research scholars

About the IMP

The Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna is a basic biomedical research institute largely sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim. With over 200 scientists from 37 nations, the IMP is committed to scientific discovery of fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying complex biological phenomena. Research areas include cell and molecular biology, neurobiology, disease mechanisms and computational biology.

About the Vienna BioCenter

The Vienna BioCenter (VBC) is a leading life sciences location in Europe, offering an extraordinary combination of research, education and business on a single campus. About 1,600 employees, more than 1,000 students, 93 research groups, 16 biotech companies, and scientists from more than 40 nations create a highly dynamic environment. See:


Heidemarie Hurtl
IMP Communications
Research Institute of Molecular Pathology
+43 (0)1 79730 3625

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