Dr. Kelsey Martin is the Dean for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a Professor in the Departments of Biological Chemistry and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. Outside UCLA, In addition to being a Senior Fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus, Dr. Martin serves on the editorial board of Cell, the board of directors for the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the selection committee of the McKnight Scholar Awards and the board of directors of the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience. Dr. Martin served as co-director of the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program from 2005-2013, Chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry from 2010-2015, Chair of the Neuroscience Research Theme Committee from 2013-2015 and Chair of the David Geffen School of Medicine Basic Science Chairs from 2012-2015. She was named Executive Vice Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor at the Geffen School of Medicine.
Dr. Martin received her B.A. in English and American Language and Literature at Harvard University. After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she entered the MD-PhD program at Yale University where she studied influenza virus-host cell interactions in the laboratory of Dr. Ari Helenius, receiving her PhD degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and her MD degree in 1992. She went on to complete her postdoctoral training in neurobiology with Dr. Eric Kandel at Columbia University and joined the UCLA faculty in 1999.
Dr. Martin directs a productive research laboratory focused on understanding how experience changes connectivity in the brain to store long-term memories. While many aspects of brain circuitry are hard-wired, it is also dynamic: the connections between neurons in the brain change with experience to store information, and in this way, nature and nurture combine to define our identities. Conversely, experiences that produce maladaptive changes in brain circuitry underlie many neuropsychiatric disorders, and age-related decreases in brain plasticity contribute to age-related memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Long-lasting changes in brain connectivity require new gene expression, and Dr. Martin has discovered a role for specific signaling molecules that travel from stimulated synapses to the nucleus to change the transcription of DNA to RNA. Her research also has highlighted a central role for the localization of RNAs to synapses, where their synthesis into protein is regulated by neuronal activity, and that the process of local protein synthesis is likely to play a particularly important role in autism spectrum disorders.
She joined the BWF Board of Directors in October 2015.