Rubenstein elected to the National Academy of Sciences

By Nicholas Weiler and Nicholas Roznovsky


UCSF neuroscientist John L.R. Rubenstein, MD, PhD, a member of the National Academy of Medicine since 2006, has been elected to National Academy of Sciences.

UC San Francisco neuroscientist and Nina Ireland Distinguished Professor in Child Psychiatry John L.R. Rubenstein, MD, PhD, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Rubenstein studies how the developing brain organizes itself—with a particular focus on how nerve cells known as inhibitory interneurons integrate themselves into brain circuits to properly regulate brain activity. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Pasteur Institute from 1984 to 1986, he was involved in the discovery that antisense RNA can inhibit gene expression and he has since investigated the 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; and analyses of transcription factor mutations that may contribute to autism.

His group has consistently worked to apply their fundamental research to understand how developmental processes may go awry in disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, mental retardation, and epilepsy. For example, Rubenstein’s research on the development of forebrain structures such as the neocortex and basal ganglia have led to collaborations with Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, PhDScott Baraban, PhD; and Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, developing methods for interneuron transplantation to treat epilepsies and other forebrain disorders.

Rubenstein has been on the UCSF faculty since 1991 and was elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine in 2006 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. His recent honors include the American Psychiatric Association’s Blanch F. Ittleson Award and the Child Mind Institute’s Distinguished Scientist Award, both of which he received in 2016.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit scholarly society established by a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and—with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine—provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Also joining Rubenstein from UCSF this year was structural biologist Yifan Cheng, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. They are among 120 new members elected to the Academy in 2020, bringing the total number of active members to 2,403. Both will be formally inducted into the Academy at the 2021 NAS Annual Meeting.

More details about the 2020 class of National Academy Members can be found on the Academy’s website.

About UCSF Psychiatry

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry, UCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute are among the nation's foremost resources in the fields of child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health. Together they constitute one of the largest departments in the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, with a mission focused on research (basic, translational, clinical), teaching, patient care, and public service.

UCSF Psychiatry conducts its clinical, educational and research efforts at a variety of locations in Northern California, including UCSF campuses at Parnassus Heights, Mission Bay and Laurel Heights, UCSF Medical Center, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, the San Francisco VA Health Care System, and UCSF Fresno.

About the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, established by the extraordinary generosity of Joan and Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, brings together world-class researchers with top-ranked physicians to solve some of the most complex challenges in the human brain.

The UCSF Weill Institute leverages UCSF’s unrivaled bench-to-bedside excellence in the neurosciences. It unites three UCSF departments—Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neurological Surgery—that are highly esteemed for both patient care and research, as well as the Neuroscience Graduate Program, a cross-disciplinary alliance of nearly 100 UCSF faculty members from 15 basic-science departments, as well as the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center focused on finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

About UCSF

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise.

It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals—UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland—as well as Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians, and the UCSF Faculty Practice. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. UCSF faculty also provide all physician care at the public Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a major branch of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.