Larry Swanson Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

One of the nation’s leading neuroanatomists, the USC College professor joins the ranks of this prestigious scientific organization.
ByEmily Cavalcanti

Larry Swanson, the Milo Don and Lucille Appleman Professor of Biological Sciences in USC College, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for his excellence in original scientific research. Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States.

Swanson joins approximately 2,100 active NAS members and his election brings USC College’s total number of NAS members to 10. The NAS’s renowned members have included Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living academy members have won Nobel Prizes.

One of the nation’s leading neuroanatomists, Swanson arrived at USC College in 1990. His work focuses on the organization of neural networks that control motivated behavior in mammals.

Swanson and members of his lab have characterized a behavior control column in the upper brainstem that controls the basic appetites (hunger and thirst), defensive behaviors (“fight-or-flight” responses), and reproductive behaviors (sexual and parental) assuring survival of the species. The team discovered several thousand new brain connections with experimental neuroanatomical pathway tracing methods, as well as other molecular, cellular, behavioral, and neuroinformatics approaches. Their results are presented in more than 250 research articles and a number of books

Swanson has compiled comprehensive atlases of the adult rat brain and developing rat brain, and has edited three volumes of the standard Handbook of Chemical Neuroanatomy (Elsevier). His widely acclaimed book, Brain Architecture: Understanding the Basic Plan (Oxford University Press, 2003), presents a new four-component model for the basic wiring diagram of the nervous system.

In addition to this recent election, Swanson has been a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2003. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has awarded Swanson two separate Senator Jacob Javits Awards in the Neurosciences and he was among the 100 most cited scientists of the ’80s (one of the two most cited neuroscientists). Swanson has served on the editorial boards of 11 scientific journals and has delivered many prestigious lectures. Dean of research in USC College from 1998 to 2000, Swanson was awarded the USC Associates Award for Creativity in Research in 2005.

“Having this distinguished scholar in our midst is a source of tremendous pride for the entire College community and we are thrilled that Larry and his outstanding work have been recognized through this high honor,” said Howard Gillman, dean of USC College.

For Swanson, election to the academy is not only a great personal achievement, but a stellar reflection upon the research conducted by the dedicated members of his lab during the past 20 years.

“The best part about my election to the academy is the validation it gives to the students and postdocs who have worked so hard and done such wonderful research in my lab over the years,” said Swanson, who is also professor of biological sciences, neurology and psychology in the College.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has served to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government.

Swanson will be inducted into the academy in April 2011 during its 148th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.