May 2002
Volume 43, Issue 5
Lecture  |   May 2002
Introduction of Russell G. Foster, the 2001 Recipient of the David G. Cogan Award
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science May 2002, Vol.43, 1285. doi:
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      Joseph C. Besharse; Introduction of Russell G. Foster, the 2001 Recipient of the David G. Cogan Award. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2002;43(5):1285.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Russell G. Foster embodies, in every way, the essence and spirit intended by the Cogan Award. He is a solid, creative, and provocative young scientist, still in an early stage of what promises to be an outstanding career. A native of England, Dr. Foster obtained his higher education at the University of Bristol, first with a masters degree in 1980 and later with a doctorate in philosophy in 1984. He remained at the University of Bristol until 1987 as a research associate in the research group on photoperiodism and reproduction before being recruited to the biology department at the University of Virginia as an Assistant Professor. While there, he soon became associated with the emerging National Science Foundation’s Center for Biological Timing, of which he remains a Senior Fellow today. Unfortunately, he was with us in the United States for only a short time before he was recruited back to England in 1995 to the Department of Biology of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. In 2000, he assumed his current position as professor and Chair of the Department of Integrative and Molecular Neuroscience at Imperial College. 
Although he is young, recognition of the exceptional quality and perception of Dr. Foster’s work is not totally new. He has received several additional awards, including the 1997 Honma Prize in biological rhythms research—an international award for outstanding research in biological rhythms that is given every 2 years to recipients who are generally younger than 40. 
Dr. Foster’s research career has many facets, reflected in a very large number of published papers for such a young career. A central feature, however, is a keen interest in photoreception, particularly as it relates to photoperiodic and circadian behavior. His acute understanding of both circadian behavior and photoreceptor biology has placed him in a unique position for analysis of the photoreceptor system that regulates circadian behavior—the work for which he has received the Cogan Award. His work in this area began with the simple observation that the photoreceptors in the eye are responsible for regulating the circadian clock system in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of rodents. This research has given us a profoundly different and somewhat unexpected view of circadian photoreception, a system in which retinal rods and cones play only a marginal role. 
For those young people beginning their research careers, it should be added that really new ideas are often accepted slowly and after much effort. On this note, it is of some interest that a decade ago, some of the ideas emerging from Dr. Foster’s work and from other laboratories on circadian photoreception were controversial, and research funding in this area was never a sure thing. Through persistence and through application of emerging new technologies, however, a clearer understanding of this system has emerged. 
On a personal note, most of us who know Dr. Foster see him as a person of keen intellect and an incredible drive to uncover the essential features of a system. When Russell is around, vigorous intellectual discussion follows quickly, and this usually occurs over good beer and with exceptional conviviality. He invigorates his students and colleagues and leaves us all with an optimistic sense that understanding is not far away. 

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