Brain Center has new director

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

Since its inception in 2005, the U Brain Institute has recruited top research faculty and organized funds for projects including neuroscience and behavioral physiology, and now it has recruited John White as executive director.

White, who was brought to the U through the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative program the Utah State Legislature organized in 2006, said he has plans to keep the Brain Institute on par by promoting collaboration and finding funds for researchers.

“I’ve been at the U since September 2007 and I applied for membership to the Brain Institute the minute I got here,” White said. “It was a surprise…and an honor to receive this position.”

White took on the role Jan. 1, almost a year after the U recruited former executive director Tom Parks as the U’s vice president for research.

Parks, who recommended White for the role based on his previous leadership positions and interdisciplinary research, said White is perfect as new head of the institute.

“John’s been involved in a number of aspects, behavior and electrical physiology, bioinformatics and signaling, which is important because the Brain Institute serves the whole community working on brain functions,” Parks said. “We need a director who can understand and talk with researchers in all areas.”

White, a bioengineering professor, is studying how information is processed in the brain. He said he’s excited about his new responsibilities and believes his role with the Legislature’s USTAR initiative will complement the work for the Brain Institute.

“USTAR is about getting drugs and devices out into the marketplace, and the Brain Institute is about having researchers work together to develop those projects,” White said.

Parks said White works on lower campus and will create a good bridge between physics, biology, engineering, chemistry and research on upper campus.

The Brain Institute has focused efforts on creating research teams for spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and other groups, and is starting a new team to study autism in a few months.

“Problems are typically too great for labs to take on by themselves,” White said. “(The institute) acts as the catalyst for major science projects throughout the state.”

Besides various teams, the institute also involves local community support groups in upcoming research by sponsoring meetings and lectures.

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