Boris Zemelman, at the age of ten, immigrated to the United States with his parents Valery and Evelina Zemelman, and lived in Wilton, Connecticut. He graduated from Wilton High School, and for his excellent academic performance was awarded Charles G. Mortimer Scholarships.
He studied Biochemistry at Stanford University, where he received his Doctorate with a dissertation on purification and characterization of a novel mammalian recombinase under professor I. Robert Lehman.
He is now an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at The Center for Learning and Memory at the University of Texas at Austin. In the past, he was a guest researcher at the Dudman Lab at The Janelia Farm Research Campus Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Subsequently, Zemelman worked jointly with Gero Miesenböck to perform seminal experiments in 2002 and 2003 on selective stimulation of neurons using light, a field that came to be known as optogenetics.  These techniques were later improved by Karl Deisseroth in 2005; these pioneering studies in optogenetics led to these three scientists being regarded as candidates for the Nobel Prize in 2013.
In 2015 Zemelman and his colleagues received three grants totaling $4 million, to develop techniques for imaging and manipulating the activity of neurons in the brain. The grants were made through Barack Obama's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative launched in 2014.
- Gordon E. Fairclough: Wilton students reap awards for excellence, in: The Hour vom 11. Juni 1985, S. 9f. auf Google News Archivsuche
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- Weber, T; Zemelman, BV; McNew, JA; Westermann, B; Gmachl, M; Parlati, F; Söllner, TH; Rothman, JE (20 March 1998). "SNAREpins: minimal machinery for membrane fusion". Cell. 92 (6): 759–72. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(00)81404-x. PMID 9529252.
- Zemelman, BV; Lee, GA; Ng, M; Miesenböck, G (3 January 2002). "Selective photostimulation of genetically chARGed neurons". Neuron. 33 (1): 15–22. doi:10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00574-8. PMID 11779476.
- Zemelman, BV; Nesnas, N; Lee, GA; Miesenbock, G (4 February 2003). "Photochemical gating of heterologous ion channels: remote control over genetically designated populations of neurons". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 100 (3): 1352–7. doi:10.1073/pnas.242738899. PMC 298776. PMID 12540832.
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- "'Three brain research teams awarded $4 million from BRAIN Initiative'". The Daily Texan. October 7, 2015. Retrieved December 26, 2015.