News at DCU
Nobel Laureate, Thomas Südhof, speaks at DCU

Nobel Laureate, Thomas Südhof, speaks at DCU

Professor Thomas Südhof, a neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine and Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine 2013, delivered a lecture yesterday as part of Dublin City University’s Nobel Laureate Series in association with Magnet Networks.

Over 500 were in attendance for the lecture, including 120 secondary school children from Tipperary, Wexford and Dublin as well as members of the public, university staff and delegates of the 9th Neuroscience Ireland Conference 2015, also taking place on the DCU campus this week.

In his lecture entitled ‘Molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release’, Professor Südhof spoke about his life’s work to date exploring how neurons in the brain communicate with one another across gaps called synapses. For people to have ideas, to experience happiness or to remember things, the neurons in their brain must communicate and Prof Südhof has been at the centre of unlocking the secrets of neurotransmission for the past 30 years. This work resulted in the 2013 Nobel Prize award and has important implications for our understanding of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism.

Prof Südhof's lecture was followed by advice offered to those who might be considering a career in science,

“It is an exciting time to be a scientist with all of the technological advances that are happening. My view is that science in many ways is the soul of our society and culture.

Science depends on the quest for knowing what does and doesn’t work and I think young people should become scientists if they are curious in finding out how things work. We still don’t fully know how the brain works for example so it’s important that you enjoy science and are truly interested in discovery.”

When asked how far we were away from finding a cure for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s for example, Prof Südhof commented,

“Tremendous challenges exist. We cannot develop therapies for conditions we don’t fully understand and Alzheimer’s for example we don’t fully understand. That doesn’t mean we are not close. Scientists never know how close they are to their end goal. My gut feeling is that we are very close. People are becoming more realistic with many labs working towards this end.

It is hugely important that we focus on understanding the disease before developing therapies. For years, treatments have been developed for diseases that aren’t fully understood and come with side effects. I feel strongly that funding is directed towards the understanding of diseases.”

The DCU Nobel Laureate Series in association with Magnet Networks reflects DCU’s commitment to academic excellence. This is the 6th lecture in the series which aims to bring to Ireland publicly accessible lectures by some of the world’s brightest minds. The Series features lectures by Nobel Laureates specialising in Physics, Chemistry, Peace, Economics, Physiology & Medicine and Literature.

Pictured are DCU President Brian MacCraith, Thomas Südhof and CEO Magnet Networks, Mark Kellett