2016 Distinguished Scientist Award

Presented to John Rubenstein, MD, PhD

Each year the Child Mind Institute’s Scientific Research Council selects an exceptional researcher for the Child Mind Institute Distinguished Scientist Award, in recognition of an outstanding contribution to child and adolescent psychiatry, psychology or developmental neuroscience. The award honors contributions either to clinical science or basic science. The award carries a prize of $25,000 and is presented at the Child Mind Institute’s Annual Child Advocacy Award Dinner. The award recipient, along with several other scientists selected because they have been influenced by recipient’s work, are featured presenters at our next On the Shoulders of Giants scientific symposium.

John Rubenstein, MD, PhD, is the Nina Ireland Distinguished Professor in Child Psychiatry at the Nina Ireland Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. His research focuses on the regulatory genes that orchestrate development of the forebrain.

Dr. Rubenstein earned both an MD and a PhD in biophysics at Stanford University. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Pasteur Institute from 1984 to 1986 (with Francois Jacob and J.F. Nicolas), he was involved in the discovery that antisense RNA can inhibit gene expression. He also developed retroviral vectors for gene delivery and fate mapping in mouse embryos. As a resident physician in child psychiatry at Stanford with a specialty in autism from 1986 to 1991, he devised a method to identify genes that are preferentially expressed in the embryonic forebrain, which led to the discovery of the Dlx2 and Tbr1 transcription factors. These genes served as entry points for his studies at UCSF, where since 1991 he has performed genetic studies of mammalian forebrain development and human neuropsychiatric disorders.

Dr. Rubenstein has investigated: organization of the embryonic forebrain; forebrain patterning centers and their regulation of cortical organization; transcription factors and enhancers that control regional and cell-type specification of brain subdivisions; differentiation, migration and function of GABAergic interneurons; translational studies of treatment for epilepsy; analyses of transcription factor mutations that may contribute to autism. He has trained seven doctoral students and over 50 postdoctoral fellows.