Colleagues of Eric Kandel, MD, University Professor Emeritus and Nobel laureate, gathered Feb. 9 to honor his contributions to Columbia, the field of neuroscience, and the areas beyond Columbia and science that benefited from his work.
The program featured a screening of a 2018 video interview with Kandel, a welcome from Katrina Armstrong, MD, dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and remarks from Kandel’s colleagues Steven A. Siegelbaum, PhD, chair of the Department of Neuroscience; Andrew Marks, MD, chair of the Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics; Helen Blair Simpson, MD, PhD, interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry; and Richard Axel, MD, co-director of the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.
The remarks touched on Kandel’s achievements in scientific research as well as his commitment to mentoring the next generation of scientists.
“Eric has shown me what it means to be a citizen of community, to embody it and make it better every day,” Armstrong said. “He reminds me how it is possible to live a great and rewarding life in an environment where we come together to serve others and the greater purpose of science and humanity. Eric has used his platform to teach us how to elevate each other and share what science can mean, but also how to share our humanity, to speak out against evil and injustice. He himself embodies the very appetite that he studied in his career-for embarking on new fields and crossing boundaries.”
Axel, a fellow Nobel Prize winner, spoke about Kandel’s childhood in Austria, from where he and his family escaped in 1939 after the Nazi invasion. Kandel’s early struggles helped inform both his lifelong commitment to Austrian culture and the people of Austria, as well as his passion for science.
“There is a quest for truth that underlies Eric’s life,” Axel said. “His science is suffused with the spirit of creativity, the ambience of discovery, a pursuit of pure knowledge, and a deep commitment to sharing this knowledge with the world. Even in science, without enchantment, there is nothing.”
The visual exhibit honoring Kandel in the Schaefer Awards Gallery outside the Alumni Auditorium includes two wall displays, one focused on his Columbia contributions and one that focuses on his contributions beyond Columbia. The exhibit also includes 10 banners with more details about his life and career. The wall exhibit will be on view in the gallery through June, and the banners will remain in the gallery through Feb. 20.
Kandel is the founding co-director of the Zuckerman Institute and the founding director of Columbia’s Kavli Institute for Brain Science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work identifying the physiological changes that occur in the brain during the formation and storage of memories. He joined Columbia in 1974 and retired in August 2022. Learn more about Eric Kandel.