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Thomas Michael Jessell
2 August 1951
|Died||28 April 2019(aged 67)|
|Alma mater||University of Cambridge|
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
|Thesis||Regulation of the Release of Substance P and Other Putative Neurotransmitters from Mammalian Brain In Vitro (1977)|
|Academic advisors||Gerald Fischbach|
Thomas Michael Jessell (2 August 1951 – 28 April 2019) was the Claire Tow Professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University in New York and a prominent developmental neuroscientist. In 2018, Columbia University announced his termination from his administrative positions after an internal investigation uncovered violations of university policies. He died shortly after from a rapidly neurodegenerative condition diagnosed as progressive supranuclear palsy.
Career and research
After his PhD, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School with Gerald Fischbach. In 1981 he became an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. In 1985 he joined the Columbia University faculty where he worked for the remainder of his career and became Claire Tow Professor of Motor Neuron Disorders (in neuroscience).
Jessell is known for his work on chemical signals that play a role when nerve cells assemble during development to form neuronal circuits. In 1994, he showed that netrin guides commissural axons in the vertebrate spinal cord.
In 1994 Jessell was awarded the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing from the National Academy of Sciences. He was a co-recipient, with Pasko Rakic and Sten Grillner, of the inaugural Kavli Prize for Neuroscience in 2008. In 2014, he was awarded the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1996. He won the Ralph W. Gerard Prize from the Society for Neuroscience in 2016.
Misconduct investigation and firing
On March 7, 2018, Jessell was removed from his post at Columbia University following what a Columbia statement described as "an investigation that revealed serious violations of university policies and values governing the behavior of faculty members in an academic environment". The university did not give details of the nature of the violations. His appointment as an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which he had held since 1985, was also ended. The Columbia Daily Spectator reported on April 12 that Jessell "was engaged in a relationship with a lab member under his supervision for years, violating University policies on consensual romantic and sexual relationships, before being removed from all administrative posts this past March". The newspaper subsequently reported that Jessell "was removed from his administrative post, following an investigation that found him responsible for sexual misconduct". It is reported Jessell was suffering symptoms of an aggressive neurodegenerative disease during this period.
- Benedict Carey (March 7, 2018). "Columbia Removes Thomas Jessell, Renowned Neuroscientist, from his Posts". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
- Briscoe, James; Arber, Silvia (2019). "Thomas M. Jessell (1951–2019)". Development. 146 (10): dev180505. doi:10.1242/dev.180505. ISSN 0950-1991. PMID 31126924.
- Saharan, Shubham (April 30, 2019). "Thomas Jessell, prominent neuroscientist and former director of the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, is dead". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Jessell, Thomas Michael (1977). Regulation of the Release of Substance P and Other Putative Neurotransmitters from Mammalian Brain In Vitro (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.460888.
- Briscoe, James; Arber, Silvia (2019-05-15). "Thomas M. Jessell (1951–2019)". Development. 146 (10): dev180505. doi:10.1242/dev.180505. ISSN 0950-1991. PMID 31126924.
- "NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- "Columbia Professors to Receive Kavli Prizes". Columbia News: Office of Communication and Public Affairs. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
- "Vilcek Foundation Honors Professor Thomas Jessell for Biomedical Research". Columbia News. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- "Fellowship of the Royal Society : Current Fellows" (PDF). Royal Society. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- "Ben Barres and Thomas Jessell Receive the Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience" (Press release). Society for Neuroscience. November 8, 2016.
- Begley, Sharon; Joseph, Andrew (March 12, 2018). "Columbia's dismissal of prominent neuroscientist prompts demand for answers". STAT. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
- Jacobovitz, Gavrielle; Xia, Karen (April 12, 2018). "Before removal, MBBI director Thomas Jessell engaged in years-long relationship that violated Columbia policy". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
- Jacobovitz, Gavrielle (April 20, 2018). "Under the Veil: The Silence Surrounding Sexual Harassment in Labs At Columbia". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved April 28, 2018.