Rachel Wong is a neurobiologist recognized for her work on the developmental mechanisms underlying the proper assembly of neuronal circuits. Her work underscores the interplay between activity-dependent and activity-independent cues in shaping circuit patterns of the visual system, particularly those of the vertebrate retina. Wong was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She graduated with a B.SC. (Hons) degree in Physics from Monash University, and a Ph.D. in Visual Neuroscience from the Australian National University. She obtained postgraduate training at the National Vision Research Institute (Australia), Stanford University and the Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Center (Australia), before joining the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis in 1994. She is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Structure at the University of Washington in Seattle. Wong was a Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator, and is a Fellow of the National Vision Research Institute, a recipient of the ARVO Friedenwald award and the B.B. Boycott Prize, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Like other parts of the brain, the vertebrate retina comprises a large diversity of cell types, which wire with specific synaptic partners to create circuits with distinct functions. Rachel Wong's laboratory is interested in uncovering the developmental mechanisms responsible for assembling stereotyped synaptic wiring patterns of the vertebrate retina. Her laboratory utilizes several model systems, including mice, zebrafish and non-human primate, as well as studies the development of the human retina. Using a combination of molecular genetics, light microscopy, live-cell imaging techniques, serial electron microscopy and electrophysiology, the Wong laboratory has discovered novel cellular strategies and signaling mechanisms that pattern the input and output arbors of neurons, and guide synaptic targeting of preferred circuit partners. In particular, her laboratory has uncovered unconventional roles of neurotransmission in shaping intra-retinal connectivity and synapse architecture of both excitatory and inhibitory neurons. The Wong laboratory is also now investigating the constraints and capacity of mature retinal neurons in re-establishing their original wiring during circuit repair after damage or disease.

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Primary Section

Section 24: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Secondary Section

Section 28: Systems Neuroscience