November 2013
Volume 54, Issue 12
Lecture  |   November 2013
Introducing Vadim Y. Arshavsky and Theodore G. Wensel, the 2013 Recipients of the Proctor Medal
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science November 2013, Vol.54, 7724. doi:
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      King-Wai Yau; Introducing Vadim Y. Arshavsky and Theodore G. Wensel, the 2013 Recipients of the Proctor Medal. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2013;54(12):7724.

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

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It is a great pleasure for me to introduce this year's Proctor Medal winners, Vadim Arshavsky and Theodore Wensel. 
Vadim Arshavsky is currently Helena Rubinstein Professor of Ophthalmology and Pharmacology at Duke University. Born into an academic family in the former Soviet Union, Vadim was drawn to science from an early age, starting to work in a biochemistry laboratory while still in high school. His undergraduate mentor was Vladimir Skulachev, a world-renowned bioenergetics expert at Moscow State University who directed a small institute with the highest scientific standards. As a graduate student, Vadim joined the new laboratory of Pavel Philippov in that institute to study the biochemistry of vision. His work, published in 1985 but underappreciated due to isolation from the western world, provided the first evidence that rhodopsin phosphorylation inhibits phototransduction. Spurred by the discrepancy between the in vivo decline rate of the rod photoresponse and the much slower in vitro inactivation of the mediating G-protein, transducin, Vadim obtained the first biochemical evidence in 1989 that transducin inactivation is facilitated by other components on photoreceptor membranes. 
In 1989, one month after the publication of this discovery, Vadim was allowed a one year sabbatical outside the Soviet Union to be with Deric Bownds at the University of Wisconsin. One month later, the Berlin Wall fell and 2 months after that, Vadim decided to stay permanently in the United States. His 1992 paper with Deric in Nature was paradigm shifting, by demonstrating that the inactivation rate of a heterotrimeric G-protein can be modulated by its interacting partners. 
From 1995 to 2005, Vadim was on the faculty at Harvard. Afterwards, he moved to Duke as Scientific Director of the new Albert Eye Research Institute. G-protein signaling remains at the center of his research, but he has also expanded into related problems, such as signal amplification and adaptation in phototransduction. He has discovered a novel adaptation mechanism in rods involving a massive, light triggered translocation of transducin from the outer segment to the rest of the cell, a finding followed up by many other laboratories afterwards. Most recently, he has also been studying the cellular mechanisms underlying the targeting of signaling proteins to the photoreceptor outer segment. Currently, a new focus of his beyond photoreceptors is the notion that dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) may be involved in dark adaptation by rod bipolar cells. 
Vadim is an outstanding citizen in the scientific community. He is a popular mentor, with many former disciples now directing their own laboratories nationwide. He enjoys much support from his family. His son, a high school junior, is upholding family tradition by making a presentation on automated OCT image analysis of the cornea at this ARVO meeting. 
Now about Theodore Wensel. He is currently Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine. Born in Washington DC, Ted developed an interest in neuroscience from his mother, a psychiatrist; in mathematics from his father, a mathematician; and in physics from his grandfather, a physicist. He was, however, the only person in his family remotely interested in chemistry or biochemistry, which, nonetheless, became his lifelong passion along with neurobiology and biophysics. 
At age 16, he entered the University of Chicago. However, swept up in the political turmoil and student protests of the time, Ted withdrew from the University before the end of his freshman year. He spent the next 8 years as an industrial worker and an activist for peace and social justice. He returned to college at age 25, completing his bachelor's degree in chemistry in one-and-a-half years. He earned a PhD in physical chemistry under Claude Meares at the University of California at Davis, where he learned to design and synthesize or produce new molecules, instruments, and software for studying the electrostatic properties of biological macromolecules. This vein of entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency has stayed with him since. In 1984, he joined Lubert Stryer's laboratory at Stanford as a postdoctoral fellow and started to work on phototransduction in rods, experimenting with outer-segment disk membranes, the light-activated cGMP-phosphodiesterase, and the mediating G-protein, transducin. 
Next, he joined the biochemistry department at Baylor College of Medicine as a faculty member, where he remains today. He continued to work on phototransduction, and, in the mid-1990s, began to focus on the regulation of the kinetics of transducin's GTPase activity, an area in which he has made fundamental discoveries. Also, he has expanded over time into the structural basis of signal transduction, other G-protein signaling pathways, retinal disease and new therapeutic approaches. Ted credits his scientific success to the many talented young members in his laboratory and to his fruitful collaborations with colleagues both at Baylor and other institutions, including Vadim Arshavsky. Indeed, as you will hear from their lectures today, Vadim and Ted have synergistically and successfully unraveled a truly fundamental question in vision. 
Ted is likewise an outstanding citizen in the scientific community. Since 2008, he has served as codirector of the “Fundamental Issues in Vision Research” course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, which was started by David Papermaster, and is completely funded by the National Eye Institute. 
Ted's main preoccupation outside his busy scientific schedule has been his family. He is the proud father of four adult children who have brought him much joy and comfort. 

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