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HAL Symposium and Honorary Dinner 2015

"Signals 'R' Us: Past and Present Trainees and Collaborators Celebrate the Life and Work (So Far!) of Henry A. Lester"

Symposium | Friday | September 11, 2015

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Kerckhoff 119 | Building # 27
Click here for campus maps.

Dinner | Friday | September 11, 2015

7:00 – 9:00 PM
Registration required

Questions? Please contact Melissa Ray.

Featuring Distinguished Keynote Speaker

Henry A. Lester
Bren Professor of Biology, Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, Caltech

Program Overview

This one day scientific symposium at Caltech will feature presentations by former colleagues, predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees and collaborators of Henry's, a keynote address by Henry, and dinner at the Athenaeum on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Organized by Jeanne Nerbonne, Alumni Endowed Professor of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University Medical School, HAL Postdoctoral Fellow 1979-1984 and Nael McCarty, Marcus Professor of Cystic Fibrosis, Emory University School of Medicine, HAL Postdoctoral Fellow 1990-1994.

Schedule of Events

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How do you know Henry Lester? Speakers Recount Meeting HAL


David Armstrong, Head, Membrane Signaling Group, Neurobiology Lab, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health. I was Henry's second graduate student after Robert Sheridan. Henry taught me how to investigate the physical basis of biological phenomena. I completed my Ph.D. in 1978. I studied the kinetics of tubocurare's action at the frog nerve-muscle synapse with high-res iontophoretic techniques (Armstrong & Lester, 1979), and, with David Weisblatt, I taught Henry's hands-on laboratory course, in which so many currently renowned neurobiologists learned electrophysiology by repeating the classical experiments of Hodgkin, Huxley, Katz and Kuffler. To this day one of the most remarkable scientific achievements I have witnessed, is watching Henry all by himself unpack a crate, assemble a rig to make the first light activated ion channel recordings, collect data, and write a Nature paper (Lester & Chang, 1977) in just eight days!


Nathan Dascal, Professor in Physiology, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University. I first met Henry when he gave a talk in Tel Aviv where I was a graduate student. Then two years later (1984-1985, I think), I went to Henry's lab as a a postdoc and spent a wonderful 15 months there. This period was so great that I went to Henry's lab again to spend my first sabbatical year (1992-93). Henry is not just a mentor, he is also a dear friend and more like a family member.


Dennis Dougherty, George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Caltech. Henry and I have been colleagues since 1979, collaborators since 1990, and neighbors for over 20 years.



Pamela England, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, UCSF. I first met Henry (in person) when I was interviewing for a postdoctoral position in his lab at Caltech. But, I got my first "hit" of Henry when he left me a voicemail, after receiving my letter asking to postdoc with him. He introduced himself and then seduced me with the provocative (and entirely true) statement: "Have I got a project for you…"



Alison Gurney, Professor of Pharmacology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, UK. I joined Henry's lab as a postdoc in January, 1983, just as his wife Margaret was giving birth to his first child, Beth. I went to a lab class he was teaching, to introduce myself, and he mistook me for an undergrad. I stayed for a little under three years, before returning to a lectureship in the UK.  During that time I worked briefly with Lee Chabala on nicotinic receptors, then on cardiac and neuronal calcium channels in collaboration with Jeanne Nerbonne, before demonstrating the use of caged calcium to study neuronal potassium channels.


Bertil Hille, Wayne E. Crill Endowed Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington Medical School. Henry and I were in graduate school together.  He arrived in time to hear my thesis defense.  We overlapped in the lab we worked in and in the apartment building we lived in.  Our families have always been in touch and provided housing on visits.



Princess Imoukhuede, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I met Henry Lester through a rotation in his laboratory in the summer of 2003.  Here, he paired me with a postdoc to perform flash-lamp and voltage clamp studies on oocytes.  I still remember how Henry would stop by and help troubleshoot experiments. After that summer, I began work as a full-time graduate student in his lab, studying the structure, function, and trafficking of the GABA transporter, GAT1 (2003-2008), a time that was filled with enjoyable and exciting science.  While, my research topics are a bit different than those days, I fully apply the research philosophies that I learned from Henry, and I am very grateful to have been molded by such an outstanding scientist.


Baljit Khakh, Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology, Department of Physiology, UCLA. I first met Henry A. Lester in 1997 and was immediately awestruck by him and by the palpable energy of the dynamic and vigorous Lester Lab. I worked in the Lester lab as a postdoc between 1998 and 2001. These were the happiest and most productive years of my life. Henry was awesome and has continued to be a supportive mentor and friend. Even now, I frequently seek and benefit from his wise counsel.


Nael McCarty, Marcus Professor of Cystic Fibrosis, Emory University School of Medicine As a grad student interested in epithelial ion channels in the late '80s, I reached out to Henry in hopes of postdoctoral training in his lab.  Since the study of epithelial ion channels using molecular physiology approaches was already falling behind the study of channels in excitable cells, I knew I'd get the best training by going to a lab well known for application of these approaches to voltage-gated and ligand-gated channels.  Henry (along with Norman Davidson) was kind enough to invite me to interview in 1989, and then to join the lab in late 1990.  Along the way, I found out that Henry already was working on what is still my favorite protein:  the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane conductance Regulator, CFTR.  I give the full name here, because most of the brainiacs at Caltech couldn't accept that the "R" didn't stand for "receptor."  I remain deeply grateful for my experience in the Lester/Davidson lab, and for Henry's continued friendship.


Jeanne Nerbonne, Alumni Endowed Professor of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Departments of Developmental Biology and Internal Medicine; Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research and Co-Director of the Center for the Investigation of Membrane Excitability Diseases, Washington University in St. Louis. I joined Henry's lab in January 1979 just as two BIG things were happening in his life: he was about to be granted tenure at Caltech and he and Margaret were about to be married. With a background in physical chemistry and photochemistry, I joined his lab to work on the development and application of photoactivatable neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) receptor agonists and antagonists and second messengers. On arrival, while showing me a room filled with boxes and an air table big enough to support a Ferrari, he handed me an instruction sheet from the shipper of the boxes that read "unpack and set up laser." And we did. At the time, however, his most memorable advice to me was: "to be sure not to get married before getting tenure." In Henry's lab, I had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting projects and to interact/work with some incredibly talented and generous people, including Mauri Krouse, Jerry Pine, Joel Nargeot and Alison Gurney!!  I learned so much physiology and biophysics from each of them that, on leaving the lab in late 1984, I had the courage to develop a research program focused on defining the mechanisms that regulate the expression, the properties and the functioning of voltage-gated ion channels in the cardiovascular and nervous systems.


Andrew Tapper, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School. I met Henry Lester when I applied to his lab for a postdoctoral position in 2001.  I was a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech in Henry's laboratory from February 2002 to June 2006.  During this time, under Henry's guidance, I began researching the neurobiology of nicotine addiction.  I have been working in this field ever since.


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Travel Information

The California Institute of Technology is located at 1200 E. California Boulevard in Pasadena, California 91125. The Caltech campus is bounded by Wilson Avenue to the west and Hill Avenue to the east, and by Del Mar Avenue to the north and California Boulevard to the south.

It is best to fly into/out of either Burbank Airport or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Shuttle buses, vans, and taxis are available for those who do not wish to rent a car. LAX is about an hour away. Burbank airport is approximately 25 minutes away from Caltech.


Campus Map (PDF)

Parking Map (PDF)

Caltech Interactive Map


Caltech campus visitors may park in any unreserved stall on campus with a daily or weekly permit. Visitor permits are required for all campus lots between the hours of 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and may be requested through Vince Rivera or purchased at automated pay stations within the lots. View the campus map for parking locations. 

Local Accommodations

Hotels/motels with Caltech rates are marked with **. Request the California Institute of Technology preferred rates, which apply for Institute business, guests, and visitors when booking accommodations.

Hotels/Motels within Walking Distance of Campus

dusitD2 Constance Pasadena
928 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 898-7900

Saga Motor Hotel**
1633 E. Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 795-0431

Vagabond Inn
1203 E. Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 449-3170

Other Nearby Hotels (2-5 Miles from Campus)

Hilton Pasadena**
168 S. Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 577-1000
Complimentary shuttle to Caltech available with advance notice.

The Langham Huntington Hotel**
1401 S. Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena, CA  91106
(626) 568-3900

Courtyard by Marriott**
180 N. Fair Oaks Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 403-7600
Complimentary shuttle to Caltech available with advance notice.

Sheraton Pasadena Hotel**
303 E. Cordova Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 449-4000
Complimentary shuttle to Caltech available with advance notice.

The Westin Pasadena**
191 N. Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 792-2727

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Event Contacts

Vince Rivera (626) 395-4952
Laura Ngo (626) 395-4953