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NIDDK's John Rinzel Retires

By Sharon Ricks

Mathematician Dr. John M. Rinzel, chief of NIDDK's Mathematical Research Branch, retired Sept. 1 after 26 years at NIH. He has accepted a joint appointment at New York University as a professor in both the Center for Neural Science and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science.

Dr. John M. Rinzel

"John has made pioneering contributions to the understanding of dendrites in neuronal information processing and to applying dynamical systems theory to give a systematic understanding of complex behavior of neurons and other excitable cells," says NIDDK colleague Arthur Sherman. Sherman has worked with Rinzel for 11 years and will serve as acting branch chief in Rinzel's absence.

Rinzel has been co-managing editor of the Journal of Computational Neuroscience since 1993. In 1994, he edited The Theoretical Foundation of Dendritic Function: Selected Papers of Wilfrid Rall with Commentaries. He has published more than 100 journal articles, book chapters and papers in conference proceedings, including recent articles in Trends in Endocrinology and Trends in Neuroscience.

"I think he's an outstanding scientist," says NIDDK Scientist Emeritus Wilfrid Rall, who supported Rinzel's appointment as chief of the branch in 1981, when Rinzel was a postdoc. "He did real pioneering work in terms of mathematics of nonlinear mathematical systems related to excitability properties of nerve cells and all cells." Rall says Rinzel also filled an important teaching function in biological mathematics by training a lot of postdocs from NIH and elsewhere.

Rinzel received a B.S. in engineering science from the University of Florida in 1967. In 1968, he received an M.S. in applied mathematics from NYU and joined NIH for 2 years as a mathematician in DCRT. After receiving his Ph.D. from NYU in 1973, Rinzel returned to DCRT. In 1975, he joined the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases, now NIDDK, as a research mathematician in MRB. He became chief of the branch in 1981.

"His departure is a loss for NIDDK and NIH," says Sherman. "But his new position at NYU is well-deserved recognition of his accomplishments and of the growing importance of computational neuroscience."

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