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The Inaugural Streisinger Award Winner: Charles (“Chuck”) B. Kimmel
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The International Zebrafish Society established the George Streisinger Award in 2016 to recognize a senior investigator who has made outstanding and continued contributions to the advancement of the zebrafish field.

George Streisinger (1927-1984) was the founding father of zebrafish research. Working at the University of Oregon in the 1970s and early 1980s, George Streisinger established a zebrafish research colony and developed the first methods for mutagenesis and mutant screening with the goal of studying the development of the nervous system through genetic analysis. George Streisinger’s enthusiasm for the zebrafish and its potential for understanding vertebrate development was infectious.

After George’s untimely death in 1984, Chuck took on the responsibility of promoting and leading zebrafish research at Oregon. As one nominator notes, “He held George’s pioneering research program together long enough after George died to allow the system to get its legs (fins).” According to Monte Westerfield, many may not realize how bravely Chuck took over George’s operation. He also remembers that Chuck continued the tradition of community sharing initiated by George, welcoming others to Oregon to learn how to work with the system. David Grunwald echoes this sentiment, noting the courage it took to adopt and grow the zebrafish genetics program at a time when its potential relevance was deeply questioned.

Sharon Amacher announced Chuck as the inaugural winner of the Streisinger Award at The Allied Genetics Conference in 2016. As she noted in her remarks, “Chuck has contributed to more than 100 papers on many aspects of zebrafish development. He is the first author on the classic zebrafish embryonic staging series, a paper that has been referenced in the literature more than 6,000 times. 

Chuck and his lab made the first fate map in zebrafish, and characterized the first recessive embryonic lethal mutations. They were the first to document cell movements and behaviors during epiboly and gastrulation, and the first to extensively use transplantation to investigate cell-autonomy of gene function and cell fate commitment. Chuck also made seminal contributions to our understanding of zebrafish midline development and developmental neurobiology.

For the last 20 or so years, he has delved into craniofacial development, using screens to facilitate novel gene discovery, as well as the tools in the zebrafish ‘toolkit’, many of which he developed, to unravel genetic and cellular interactions controlling facial skeleton morphogenesis.”

David Grunwald presented the official Streisinger award at the 7th Strategic Conference of Zebrafish Investigators to Chuck in abstentia. He too remarked on Chuck’s contributions to the field in creating the tools needed to generate, recover and propagate mutants enabling the large zebrafish screens. David mentioned that through his group’s work on mutants that came from these screens, we learned principles of conservation from no tail, questions of morphogenesis versus tissue fate assignment with spadetail, and the importance of cell neighbors in induction of the ventral nervous system and pioneer slow muscle cells.

As Sharon mentioned in her remarks, “Chuck has been an influential force shaping the model and community into what it is today. He has been dedicated to teaching others for decades – not only the ‘official’ trainees in his own lab, but the myriad of others who have visited Oregon over the years to learn the tricks of the trade. He has trained numerous scientists who have gone on to establish successful labs of their own. Chuck’s openness and generosity helped to set the standard for our extraordinary community.” David Grunwald adds, “Chuck was incredibly generous, and that influenced the norms of how we treat each other in the field.”

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For all of these reasons, the IZFS was proud to present the first Streisinger award to Chuck Kimmel.


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