On Monday, September 22, the Burke Medical Research Institute held an Honorary Symposium to celebrate the distinguished research career of Harriet Baker, Ph.D., professor of Neurology and Neuroscience. For over 30 years at BMRI and Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Baker has made important contributions to the fields of olfactory sense perception and neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Baker’s research has helped establish that odorant-mediated synaptic activity is required for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression in the developing and adult olfactory bulb. TH encodes the rate-limiting enzyme for dopamine biosynthesis, and her investigations into the molecular mechanisms that regulate TH expression in the olfactory bulb have been influential in understanding how neuronal activity can modulate gene expression and guide the development of specific neuron sub-types.
Over 70 friends, family, collaborators, and former lab members—including those from California, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, and Japan—traveled to BMRI for the occasion. After opening remarks by BMRI executive director Rajiv Ratan, M.D., Ph.D., researchers from various institutions gave presentations on their work and shared anecdotes from their collaborations with Dr. Baker. Speakers from BMRI included John Cave, Ph.D., Gary E. Gibson, Ph.D., Glen Prusky, Ph.D., and Botir Sagdullaev, Ph.D.. A gift of a laser-engraved chair was presented to Dr. Baker at the start of the symposium and a slideshow of photographs sent in by attendees played throughout the day.
A reception and dinner followed at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains. Dr. Baker’s husband, Robert Baker, Ph.D., a professor of Neuroscience and Physiology at New York University, gave a moving speech tracing Dr. Baker’s path towards becoming a scientist. From being the first woman doctoral recipient in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Iowa to co-authoring over 115 journal articles and 24 book chapters, and mentoring 20 post-doctoral fellows, Dr. Baker continues to advance our understanding of the olfactory system.