King-Wai Yau delivering 2008 Champalimaud Award lecture at ARVO meeting
October 27, 1948|
Guangzhou (Canton), China
|Institutions||Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas Medical Branch|
|Alma mater||Princeton A.B. in physics 1971, Harvard Ph.D in neurobiology 1975|
|Academic advisors||John G. Nicholls, Denis A. Baylor, Alan L. Hodgkin|
|Known for||mechanisms of sensory transduction in vision and olfaction|
King-Wai Yau (Chinese: 游景威; Pinyin: You Jing-Wei; born October 27, 1948) is a Chinese-born American neuroscientist and Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Early Life, Education & Career
Born in Guangzhou (formerly called Canton), Guangdong Province, China, he was the sixth of seven children. His family relocated to Hong Kong within months of his birth. His father, a businessman, passed away when Yau was only five years old.
He attended secondary school in Buddhist Wong Fung Ling College and St. Paul's Co-educational College in Hong Kong, before entering University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine to study medicine. Not wanting to be a physician, however, he departed for the United States in 1968 after only one year of medical study. He received an A.B. in physics from Princeton in 1971 and a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard in 1975, completing his doctoral thesis under John G. Nicholls, a former student of Bernard Katz. He did postdoctoral work with Denis A. Baylor at Stanford University, then with Sir Alan L. Hodgkin at University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Thereafter, he was on the faculty of University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (1981–86), rising to Professor of Physiology and Biophysics in 1985. In 1986, he became Professor of Neuroscience and Investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (1986-2004) at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he has been since.
He is known for discoveries on how light and odor are sensed in the eye and the nose, triggering neural signals to be transmitted to the brain. He has greatly elucidated the properties of the light responses and their underlying phototransduction mechanisms in retinal rods and cones, as well as in intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (which express the photopigment, melanopsin, to mediate mostly non-image vision such as pupillary light reflex and photoentrainment of the circadian rhythm). He has made similarly important discoveries on olfactory transduction in the receptor neurons of the nasal olfactory epithelium. His work impacts broadly on understanding G-protein signaling at a quantitative level. His investigations on the spontaneous activity of rod and cone pigments have provided a physicochemical explanation for why our vision does not extend into Infrared wavelengths.
Selected Honors & Awards
• 1978, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow
• 1980, Visiting Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge, United Kingdom
• 1980, Rank Prize in Optoelectronics, The Rank Prize Funds, United Kingdom
• 1993, Friedenwald Award, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
• 1994, Alcon Award in Vision Research, Alcon Research Institute
• 1995, Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
• 1996, Magnes Prize, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
• 2006, Balazs Prize, International Society for Eye Research (ISER)
• 2010, Member, National Academy of Sciences
• 2012, CNIB Chanchlani Global Vision Research Award, Canada
Articles with over 400 citations according to Google Scholar  as of December 17, 2012:
- 1979 "The membrane current of single rod outer segments", 470 citations
- 1979 "Responses of retinal rods to single photons", 576 citations
- 1989 "Cyclic GMP-activated conductance of retinal photoreceptor cells", 477 citations
- 1990 "Primary structure and functional expression of a cyclic nucleotide-activated channel from olfactory neurons", 523 citations
- 1998 "Identification of ligands for olfactory receptors by functional expression of a receptor library", 402 citations
- 2002 "Melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells: architecture, projections, and intrinsic photosensitivity", 832 citations
- 2003 "Melanopsin and rod–cone photoreceptive systems account for all major accessory visual functions in mice", 472 citations
- 2005 "Melanopsin-expressing ganglion cells in primate retina signal colour and irradiance and project to the LGN", 416 citations
- Yau, KW (1994). "The Friedenwald Lecture: Phototransduction mechanism in retinal rods and cones". Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 35: 9–32.
- Hattar, S; Liao HW; Takao M; Berson DM; Yau KW (2002). "Melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells: architecture, projections, and intrinsic photosensitivity". Science 295: 1065–1070. doi:10.1126/science.1069609. PMC 2885915. PMID 11834834.
- Luo, DG; Yue WWS; Ala-Laurila P; Yau KW (2011). "Activation of visual pigments by light and heat". Science 332: 1307–1312. doi:10.1126/science.1200172.
- Baylor, D. "Introduction of King-Wai Yau 1993 Friedenwald Award winner". Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 35: 6–8.
- "National Academy of Sciences 2013 Awards".
- Baylor DA, Lamb TD, Yau KW (1979). "The membrane current of single rod outer segments". Journal of Physiology - London 288: 589–611.
- Baylor DA, Lamb TD, Yau KW (1979). "Responses of retinal rods to single photons". Journal of Physiology - London 288: 613–634.
- Yau KW, Baylor DA (1989). "Cyclic GMP-activated conductance of retinal photoreceptor cells". Annual Review of Neuroscience 12: 289–327. doi:10.1148/annurev.neuro.12.1.289.
- Dhallan RS, Yau KW, Schrader KA, Reed RR (1990). "Primary structure and functional expression of a cyclic nucleotide-activated channel from olfactory neurons". Nature 347: 184–187. doi:10.1038/347184a0.
- Krautwurst D, Yau KW, Reed RR (1998). "Identification of ligands for olfactory receptors by functional expression of a receptor library". Cell 95: 917–926. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81716-X.
- Hattar S, Lucas RJ, Mrosovsky N, Thompson S, Douglas RH, Hankins MW, Lem J, Biel M, Hofmann F, Foster RG, Yau KW (2003). "Melanopsin and rod–cone photoreceptive systems account for all major accessory visual functions in mice". Nature 424: 76–81. doi:10.1038/nature01761. PMC 2885907.
- Dacey DM, Liao HW, Peterson BB, Robinson FR, Smith VC, Pokorny J, Yau KW (2005). "Melanopsin-expressing ganglion cells in primate retina signal colour and irradiance and project to the LGN". Nature 433: 749–754. doi:10.1038/nature03387. PMID 15716953.