BIO5 names new Associate, Assistant Directors

July 8, 2009

By hammersmith

Pharmacy professor Laurence Hurley is stepping down as associate director. His lab will remain in BIO5 and he will continue to provide leadership to BIO5’s Drug Discovery and Development Initiative.

“I appreciate Dr. Hurley’s contributions to BIO5 and welcome Dr. Barnes and Dr. Barton. They are brilliant scientists who understand the interdisciplinary nature of BIO5’s research agenda,” said Fernando D. Martinez, BIO5’s interim director. “Dr. Barnes and Dr. Barton lead programs in their respective areas that connect people from different disciplines and backgrounds and they bring new leadership capacity to BIO5. I look forward to their contributions.”

Barnes is a Regents’ Professor of psychology and neurology, a co-founder of the Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neural Systems, Memory and Aging at the UA and director of the UA’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, which is devoted to understanding the brain mechanisms underlying memory and their changes during normal aging.

A major goal of Barnes’ research is to develop the tools necessary to characterize normal changes in memory from those that reflect pathological conditions.

To achieve this requires the ability to characterize intricate patterns of interaction among many nerve cells over widespread regions of the brain.

Two forms of cutting-edge technologies have emerged from these efforts involving high-density parallel recording and single-cell resolution imaging methods that may one day provide a means to optimize cognitive function in healthy older persons and detect the early signs of disease states.

Barnes has been president of the 38,000-member Society for Neuroscience, the organization of scientists who study the brain, and was an associate editor of the society’s journal. She served four years as a member of the National Advisory Council on Aging at the National Institute on Aging, and four years as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Barton, an imaging expert, is interim head of the department of biomedical engineering and chair of the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Interdisciplinary Program.

She is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and a fellow of SPIE, the international society to advance light-based research. She was honored at the 2009 UA Innovation Day as a “leading edge researcher.” 

Barton is developing both the technology and potential applications of optical imaging. Her research focuses on optical coherence tomography, known as OCT, a noninvasive technique that directs a beam of near-infrared light on tissue.

The light penetrates a few millimeters and is reflected back. Images similar to ultrasound are obtained, but with much higher resolution. Barton is particularly interested to see if OCT can be used to detect cancer at a very early stage, when it is most curable.

She is developing small probes that can direct light to internal organs such as the colon or ovary. Since the technology is so new, she is also working to discover what potentially dangerous changes OCT can detect.