Prof. Scott M. Sternson

Laboratory Head

B.A., Bowdoin College (1996); Ph.D., Harvard University (2001); Postdoctoral Fellow, Rockefeller University (2001-2006); Group Leader, Janelia Research Campus (2007-2020), HHMI Investigator (2020-present); Professor of Neurosciences, UCSD (2021-present).

Prof. Scott M. Sternson, Ph.D. is a Professor of Neurosciences at the UCSD School of Medicine. He is also an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His doctoral training was in chemistry and chemical biology with Prof. Stuart Schreiber at Harvard. His postdoctoral research was on neural circuit control of appetite and body weight regulation with Prof. Jeffrey Friedman at Rockefeller University and in collaboration with Prof. Karel Svoboda’s lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Sternson’s research is focused on a reductionist approach for understanding how essential survival behaviors are encoded and mediated by the mammalian brain. His lab is best known for work on how hunger alters neural signaling in mice to influence motivated behaviors directed towards food. More recently, the lab has been investigating how different phases of motivated behaviors are mediated by the brain and body as well as how motivational states, such as hunger, thirst, and stress, differ at the level of brain function. For this work, his lab has developed many widely used tools for deep-brain neuroscience. These methods provide key insights about neural circuits in the hypothalamus that have informed understanding of the physiological control of appetite. The lab laboratory uses electrophysiology, deep-brain calcium imaging, molecular genetics, transcriptomics, single molecule RNA-FISH, protein engineering, and chemistry to study neural circuits that control hunger. In recent work, the lab has merged molecular and systems neuroscience with a technique called CaRMA imaging that combines in vivo two-photon calcium imaging with spatial transcriptomics. They have also developed new chemogenetic technologies for use in research as well as for applications as drug-controlled gene therapies for human neurological disorders. The ultimate goal of these investigations is to identify cell types and molecular targets for controlling appetite and other motivations that are important for understanding obesity, metabolic disorder, and addiction.


Awards and Honors

Philip A. Sharp Lecture in Neural Circuits- McGovern Institute, MIT
J Denis McGarry Lecture, Montreal Diabetes Research Center
Linda and Jack Gill Transformative Investigator Award
Helmholtz Foundation Young Investigator in Diabetes Award
Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
1st prize Harvard Business School Business Plan Contest
1st prize Harvard Biotech Club Business Plan Contest
Semifinalist MIT Business Plan Contest
National Science Foundation predoctoral fellowship
Derek Bok Award for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard University
Phi Beta Kappa, Bowdoin College
American Institute of Chemists Prize, Bowdoin College
Guy Charles Howard Award for academic excellence, Bowdoin College
James Bowdoin Scholar
National Merit Scholarship from Dow Chemical