Open main menu

Cornelia Isabella "Cori" Bargmann (born 1961)[2] is an American neurobiologist. She is known for her work on the genetic and neural circuit mechanisms of behavior using C. elegans, particularly the mechanisms of olfaction in the worm. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and had been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UCSF and then Rockefeller University from 1995 to 2016. It was announced on September 21, 2016 that she had been named the incoming president of science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, effective October 1, 2016. In 2012 she was awarded the $1 million Kavli Prize, and in 2013 the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Cornelia Bargmann
Cornelia Isabella Bargmann

January 1, 1961 (1961-01) (age 58)
Alma materUniversity of Georgia, MIT
Known forOlfaction research
Spouse(s)Richard Axel
Scientific career
FieldsBiochemistry, cancer biology
InstitutionsRockefeller University
Doctoral advisorRobert Weinberg
Other academic advisorsH. Robert Horvitz



Bargmann was born in Virginia and grew up in Athens, Georgia, one of four children, and the daughter of Rolf Bargmann, a statistician and computer scientist at the University of Georgia.[3]

She completed undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia in 1981, with a degree in biochemistry. She completed graduate school from MIT with a Ph.D in the department of Biology in 1987 in the lab of Robert Weinberg. She examined the molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, and helped identify the role of Ras in bladder cancer. She also did significant work on neu, an oncogene that later led to significant treatments in breast cancer.[4]

Bargmann then completed a postdoc with H. Robert Horvitz at MIT, working on molecular biology mechanisms of neuroscience. She began working on chemosensory behavior in C. elegans, and achieved several breakthroughs, demonstrating, among other things, that nematodes have a sense of smell.[4]

Bargmann accepted a faculty position at UCSF in 1995. She continued her studies of worm behavior and neural control, focusing on olfaction at the molecular level. She looked for genes similar to those found by Richard Axel and Linda Buck to be the basis of smell and taste, and found those genes in the recently sequenced genome of C elegans. Her work led to discoveries of the mechanisms underlying complex behaviors, such as feeding behaviors.[4] The work has continued to lead to a deeper understanding of the brain, sensory abilities, and neuronal development. Bargmann also identified SYG-1, a "matchmaker" molecule—a molecule that directs neurons to form connections with each other during development.[5][6]

In 2004, Bargmann moved to Rockefeller University.[5] She served as an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute until 2016 before she took the President of CZI. Bargmann’s lab uses a relatively simple organism, the nematode C. elegans, and its extremely sensitive sense of smell to study how genes regulate neuronal development, function, and behavior. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including election to the National Academy of Sciences.

Bargmann is married to fellow olfactory scientist Richard Axel, a Nobel laureate. Previously, she had been married to Michael J. Finney, who also completed graduate studies at MIT and is now a Director at Sage Science, Inc.

For a vivid portrait of Bargmann as a young scientist working in Weinberg's lab, see Natalie Angier's book Natural Obsessions: The Search for the Oncogene.

Notable papersEdit

  • Shen, Kang; Bargmann, Cornelia I. (March 7, 2003). "The immunoglobin superfamily protein SYG-1 determines the location of specific synapses in C. Elegans". Cell. 112 (5): 619–630. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(03)00113-2. PMID 12628183. [3][7]
  • de Bono, Mario; Bargmann, Cornelia I. (September 4, 1998). "Natural variation in a neuropeptide Y receptor homolog modifies social behavior and food response in C. Elegans". Cell. 94 (5): 679–689. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81609-8. PMID 9741632.
  • Troemel, E.R., Kimmel, B.E., and Bargmann, C.I. (1997). Reprogramming chemotaxis responses: sensory neurons define olfactory preferences in C. elegans. Cell 91, 161-169.
  • Zhang, Y., Lu, H., and Bargmann, C.I. (2005). Pathogenic bacteria induce aversive olfactory learning in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 438, 179-184.
  • Chalasani, S.H., Chronis, N., Tsunozaki, M., Gray, J.M., Ramot, D., Goodman, M.B., and Bargmann, C.I. (2007). Dissecting a circuit for olfactory behaviour in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature 450, 63-70.
  • Chalasani, S.H., Kato, S., Albrecht, D.R., Nakagawa, T., Abbott, L.F., and Bargmann, C.I. (2010). Neuropeptide feedback modifies odor-evoked dynamics in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature Neuroscience 6, 615-621




  1. ^ The Kavli Prize: "Cornelia Bargmann" Archived 2013-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Crevar.
  4. ^ a b c Marino.
  5. ^ a b Rockefeller, Jan. 5, 2004.
  6. ^ Friend, 2003.
  7. ^ UCSF (description of paper)
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ a b c d