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Laureates / 

Doris Ying Tsao

Doris Ying Tsao is a professor in the neurobiology division of the department of molecular & cell biology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. Tsao received her bachelor’s degree in biology and math from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1996. Much like fellow laureate Nancy Kanwisher, Tsao’s path in science follows a family legacy: her father is a mathematician, her mother was a computer programmer, and her brother is also a neuroscientist. Tsao completed her PhD in 2002 at Harvard University, under the mentorship of neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone. In her graduate work, Tsao explored the neural mechanisms of depth perception before beginning to explore face processing. Following her PhD studies, Tsao started an independent research group at the Institute for Brain Research at the University of Bremen in 2004. She then joined the faculty of Caltech in 2009 before later moving to the University of California, Berkeley in 2021.

Tsao’s work focuses on elucidating the neural circuitry of the brain’s visual system. In partnership with fellow laureate Winrich Freiwald, Tsao expertly harnessed functional brain imaging to target electrodes in the brains of macaque monkeys as a model species. This novel technique led to Tsao’s and Freiwald’s landmark discovery of a six-region face patch system in the brain. Since then, Tsao’s team has decoded the brain’s hierarchical process of identifying faces and other objects by compiling information about various features across individual brain cells.

Tsao has received numerous awards and honors, including the Eppendorf and Science International Prize in Neurobiology in 2006, the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award in 2012, the Golden Brain Award from the Minerva Foundation in 2014, and the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize in 2018. Tsao was named an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2015, a MacArthur fellow in 2018, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2020.