Local resident honored with endowed chair at Salk Institute


Salk professor Tatyana Sharpee, a Carmel Valley resident, was recently recognized for her contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named to an endowed chair at the Salk Institute.

Tatyana Sharpee
Tatyana Sharpee
(Chris Keeney / Salk Institute


Sharpee, named to the Edwin K. Hunter Chair, is a neurobiologist and data scientist who seeks to understand how the brain and other biological systems work to efficiently process signals from the environment and select the best actions. Inefficiencies in this processing can lead to a number of psychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions, as well as contribute to aging. Sharpee is using advanced methods from information theory, mathematics, statistics and physics to chart the principles by which the brain’s billions of neurons exchange energy and information. One of her recent findings includes the demonstration that signals in the brain and within individual cells follow specific patterns that allow for efficient signal transmission within biological systems. This makes it possible to identify a small number of control signals with which to describe and manipulate the function of individual cells within the nervous system.

Another recent finding describes how neural circuits should be connected to best operate in dynamic environments, and the critical role that inhibitory neurons (those that suppress signals in other neurons) play in dynamically modifying neural circuits. Overall, Sharpee’s future research plans are directed at further exploring how signals are organized in the brain and how we can slow down the aging processes.

“I am deeply humbled to be the recipient of the Edwin K. Hunter Chair. Mr. Edwin K. Hunter has been a staunch supporter of quantitative research in biological sciences and has worked tirelessly to promote the participation of women in quantitative sciences. His support will make it possible for us to pursue novel areas of research, including the circuit motifs in the brain that make us human,” says Sharpee, a member of Salk’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory.

The Edwin K. Hunter Chair was established in 2013 due to a philanthropic collaboration of the Olive Tupper Foundation, the Chambers Medical Foundation, the Jenkins Family Charitable Institute, and the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation. It is named for Edwin K. Hunter, attorney and member of the Salk Institute Board of Trustees. Hunter’s contributions to Salk include serving as the chair of Salk’s Annual Tax Seminar since 2010.

“Tatyana exemplifies the unification of physics and mathematics with other sciences to produce new insights into how life works. Her innovations translate into a healthier, more productive humankind. Tatyana is a role model for young women considering careers in any STEM discipline,” says Hunter.

Learn more at salk.edu.