Carol A. Mason

Columbia University


Primary Section: 24, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member (elected 2018)

Biosketch

Carol Mason is a developmental neurobiologist recognized for her work on the anatomy and cell-cell interactions in the developing cerebellum and visual pathways. She is known for her studies on axon growth and guidance at the optic chiasm during the establishment of the binocular circuit. She graduated from Chatham College (Pittsburgh, PA) in 1967 with a degree in biology and from University of California, Berkeley with a MA and PhD in zoology in 1973. She was a postdoctoral fellow at University of Bristol and then at the Universities of Wisconsin and Chicago with Ray Guillery. In 1980, she joined the faculty of NYU Medical School, and joined the Columbia University faculty in 1987. At Columbia, she is a member of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, a past co-director of the neurobiology graduate program, and Chair of Interschool Planning. She was president of the Society for Neuroscience 2013-2014. Mason is a Senior Fellow of the Simons Foundation, an AAAS fellow, and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Research Interests

Carol Mason investigates visual system development, namely the cellular and molecular features of axon guidance, axon-target interactions, and cell specification during patterning of the circuit for binocular vision. Her work on the visual system, and previously on the cerebellum, utilizes a suite of traditional and novel pathway tracing, correlated light and electron microscopic analysis, live imaging, culture assays, and gene profiling. Over the past two decades, her lab’s work has revealed a molecular program of transcription and axon guidance factors that specify the ipsilateral and contralateral retinal ganglion cell (RGC) pathways through the optic chiasm and to thalamic targets in the mouse brain. They identified retinal axon growth cone guidance receptor systems that direct these two projections, and transcription factors that regulate ipsilateral and contralateral RGC subtype identity, and the pre-target axon organization and developmental refinement of the retinogeniculate pathway. They also interrogate how axon targeting and cell specification go awry in the albino visual system, in which the lack of melanin leads to a reduction of the ipsilateral projection. For her work on the developing visual system, Mason was a co-recipient of the 2016 Antonio Champalimaud Vision award.

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