Professor John Bekkers is Head of the Division of Neuroscience at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in the ANU College of Health and Medicine.

Professor Bekkers is well-known internationally as an expert in cellular neuroscience, which is the study of the cells and circuits that make up the nervous system. Most recently, he is best known for his work on that most mysterious of our five senses, the sense of smell. By measuring the responses of single nerve cells (neurons) in the brain of a mouse when it smells an odour, his research aims to understand how brain circuits enable us to make sense of the outside world.

The olfactory system is also very susceptible to epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and COVID, and so his research may reveal new understanding and therapies for these disorders.

In addition, Professor Bekkers has expertise in the cellular basis of learning and memory, as well as the ways in which information is transmitted from place to place in the brain via synapses between neurons. He has experience with a variety of media, including live radio interviews (ABC Radio Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, etc.), newspaper interviews and articles (Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald, etc.) and interviews and articles with Cosmos magazine.

Professor Bekkers is also a member of the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience at ANU. After completing his undergraduate degree at Griffith University, Brisbane, Professor Bekkers did a Masters in history and philosophy of science at the University of Manchester, UK, and a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, UK.

He undertook further research training in neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine (New Haven, Connecticut) and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, California) before returning to Australia to set up his own laboratory at ANU.

He has been a full-time academic at the John Curtin School of Medical Research for more than 30 years. In addition to his research activities, Professor Bekkers has been Deputy Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research, consultant to high-tech industry, and Director of the Australasian Course in Advanced Neuroscience, which trains young neuroscientists in Australia and New Zealand.

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