Cornelia Bargmann

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Cornelia Bargmann
Born Cornelia Isabella Bargmann
January 1, 1961 (1961-01) (age 55)
Fields Biochemistry, Cancer Biology
Institutions Rockefeller University
Alma mater University of Georgia, M.I.T.
Doctoral advisor Robert Weinberg
Other academic advisors H. Robert Horvitz
Known for Olfaction research
Spouse Richard Axel

Cornelia Isabella "Cori" Bargmann (born 1961)[2] is an American neurobiologist. She is known for her work on the behavior in the C. elegans, particularly olfaction in the worm. Studying the C. elegans is allowing Bargmann to uncover how neurons and genes affect behavior. Knowing that many of the gene mechanisms in roundworms mimic those of mammals, she is able to manipulate certain genes and observe how that affects changes in behavior. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is currently a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Rockefeller University. It was announced on September 21, 2016 that she had been named the incoming president of science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, effective October 1, 2016. In 2012 she was awarded the $1 million Kavli Prize, and in 2013 the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.


Bargmann was born in Virginia and grew up in Athens, Georgia, one of four children, and the daughter of Rolf Bargmann, a statistician and computer scientist at the University of Georgia.[3]

She completed undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia in 1981, with a degree in biochemistry. She completed graduate school from M.I.T with a PH.D in the department of Biology in 1987 in the lab of Robert Weinberg. She examined the molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, and helped identify the role of Ras in bladder cancer. She also did significant work on neu, an oncogene that later lead to significant treatments in breast cancer.[4]

Bargmann then completed a postdoc with H. Robert Horvitz at MIT, working on molecular biology mechanisms of neuroscience. She began working on chemosensory behavior in C. elegans, and achieved several breakthroughs, demonstrating, among other things, that nematodes have a sense of smell.[4]

Bargmann accepted a faculty position at UCSF in 1991, She continued her studies of worm behavior and neural control, focusing on olfaction at the molecular level. She looked for genes similar to those found by Richard Axel and Linda Buck to be the basis of smell and taste, and found those genes in the recently sequenced genome of C elegans. Her work led to discoveries of the mechanisms underlying complex behaviors, such as feeding behaviors.[4] The work has continued to lead to a deeper understanding of the brain, sensory abilities, and neuronal development. Bargmann also identified SYG-1, a "matchmaker" molecule—a molecule that directs neurons to form connections with each other during development.[5][6]

In 2004, Bargmann moved to Rockefeller University.[5] She is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Bargmann’s lab uses a relatively simple organism, the nematode C. elegans, and its extremely sensitive sense of smell to study how genes regulate neuronal development, function, and behavior. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including election to the National Academy of Sciences.

Bargmann is married to fellow olfactory scientist Richard Axel, a Nobel laureate. Previously, she had been married to Michael J. Finney, who also completed graduate studies at M.I.T. and is now a Director at Sage Science, Inc.

For a vivid portrait of Bargmann as a young scientist working in Weinberg's lab, see Natalie Angier's "Natural Obsessions: The Search for the Oncogene".

Bargmann was featured in the New York Times on June 21, 2011.

Notable papers[edit]

  • Shen, Kang; Bargmann, Cornelia I. (March 7, 2003). "The immunoglobin superfamily protein SYG-1 determines the location of specific synapses in C. Elegans". Cell. 112 (5): 619–630. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(03)00113-2. PMID 12628183.  [3][7]
  • de Bono, Mario; Bargmann, Cornelia I. (September 4, 1998). "Natural variation in a neuropeptide Y receptor homolog modifies social behavior and food response in C. Elegans". Cell. 94 (5): 679–689. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81609-8. PMID 9741632. 
  • Troemel, E.R., Kimmel, B.E., and Bargmann, C.I. (1997). Reprogramming chemotaxis responses: sensory neurons define olfactory preferences in C. elegans. Cell 91, 161-169.
  • Zhang, Y., Lu, H., and Bargmann, C.I. (2005). Pathogenic bacteria induce aversive olfactory learning in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 438, 179-184.
  • Chalasani, S.H., Chronis, N., Tsunozaki, M., Gray, J.M., Ramot, D., Goodman, M.B., and Bargmann, C.I. (2007). Dissecting a circuit for olfactory behaviour in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 450, 63-70.
  • Chalasani, S.H., Kato, S., Albrecht, D.R., Nakagawa, T., Abbott, L.F., and Bargmann, C.I. (2010). Neuropeptide feedback modifies odor-evoked dynamics in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature Neuroscience 6, 615-621




  1. ^ The Kavli Prize: "Cornelia Bargmann"
  2. ^ a b "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Crevar.
  4. ^ a b c Marino.
  5. ^ a b Rockefeller, Jan. 5, 2004.
  6. ^ Friend, 2003.
  7. ^ UCSF (description of paper)