James Eles Wins Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize

May 21, 2012

Photo of James Eles

The first-ever Walt and Bobbi Makous Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Vision Research was presented to James Eles during the senior awards ceremony during commencement weekend. 

James Eles is a neuroscience major currently in his fifth-year in the Take-5 program where he is studying the history and psychology of warrior codes. James has had a remarkable academic career and has been on the Dean’s list every single semester. He has received a Dean’s scholarship for his studies and has been elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Since his junior year he has worked in the department of Neurobiology and Anatomy on an independent research project in the lab of Dr. Ania Majewska. He was also awarded the prestigious Center for Visual Science undergraduate summer research fellowship to continue his work full-time during the summer. During the last few years James worked on a glutamate transporter, GLT-1, which is expressed exclusively in glial cells in the mouse cerebral cortex. He showed that GLT-1 expression can be modulated by sensory experience. This was an unexpected finding since glia are largely expected to play supportive roles to neurons and not necessarily participate in responses driven by changes in the sensory environment.

His finding is novel and exciting as it suggests instead that glial cells can respond to sensory activity by altering glutamate processing which can in turn affect the function of neurons. For his study, James has to master numerous scientific techniques, including immunocytochemistry, imaging, fluorescent and electron microscopy analysis. His work culminated in a first-author manuscript that is currently submitted for publication. James is looking forward to his next challenge. In the fall he will enroll in the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Pittsburgh.