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UCSC physicist Alexander Sher named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Date:6/13/2012

SANTA CRUZ, CA--The Pew Charitable Trusts has named Alexander Sher, assistant professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. Sher will receive a $240,000 award over four years to support his research on how the retina heals itself after laser surgery.

Sher applies his background in physics to challenging problems in neurobiology, using custom-designed arrays of microscopic electrodes to probe the simultaneous activity of large numbers of neurons. This system, which he helped develop at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at UC Santa Cruz, has been used in a number of studies, most recently in the development of a new type of retinal prosthesis for restoring sight to the blind and in fundamental research on the neurological basis of color vision.

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies and invests in talented researchers in medicine or biomedical sciences. By backing them early in their careers, the program enables promising scientists to take calculated risks and follow unanticipated leads to advance human health. Sher is among 22 innovative young researchers chosen this year from the 134 candidates nominated by invited institutions. He is the fourth UCSC faculty member to receive this prestigious award.

Sher began his career studying high-energy particle physics. As a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz, working with physicist Alan Litke at SCIPP, he began studying neural networks in the retina. Sher now heads his own research program investigating retinal function and development. The new project funded by his Pew Scholarship will explore how the retina responds to laser photocoagulation. This type of surgery is used to treat a variety of visual disorders, including diabetic retinopathy.

Laser photocoagulation can stave off blindness by intentionally reducing metabolic load in the retina through destructio
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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert

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