The 2015 Biology Colloquium, Francis O. Schmitt Memorial Lecture
This year the MIT Department of Biology hosted Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President of the Rockefeller University and also the Carson Family Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair.
Dr. Susan Lindquist of the Whitehead Institute was the faculty host and welcomed Francis O. Schmitt’s daughter Marion Ellis and her husband David to the lecture. Lindquist introduced Tessier-Lavigne who spoke to a large audience on April 28, 2015, giving an outstanding talk on “Sculpting neuronal connections: The logic and mechanisms of axon growth and pruning.”
Each year a prominent neuroscientist is asked to deliver the annual Francis O. Schmitt Memorial Lecture in honor of Schmitt who was a Professor of Biology and held the position of Head of the Biology Department from 1942-1955. When Schmitt assumed that role, the department included just a handful of faculty. Under his leadership, biology was developed into a major department at MIT. Schmitt also ran his laboratory’s research program, in the biochemistry and biophysics of nerves and in neurosciences, over the same period.
Schmitt was appointed Institute Professor in 1955, a distinguished academic post awarded by MIT that recognizes outstanding achievement. He provided leadership to a number of scientific organizations, including serving on the boards of both Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital. Schmitt also founded the Neurosciences Research Program (NRP) in available space at MIT in 1962, which gave a focus through conferences and publications to research in the neurosciences throughout the world.