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Erich Jarvis Bio, Life, and Career:
Erich D. Jarvis, a neurobiologist, was born on May 6, 1965, in the Harlem district of New York City. His parents, musicians James Jarvis and Sasha Valeria McCall, were his parents. Jarvis discovered his love for dancing at a young age, which eventually led him to enroll at the High School of the Performing Arts. Jarvis grew up in a home that was creative but impoverished.
After receiving his high school diploma in 1983, he declined an opportunity to try out for the African American dance troupe Alvin Ailey so that he may enroll at Hunter College instead. During his time as an undergraduate, he conducted research on the genes in bacteria that are responsible for protein synthesis while working as a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Fellow. After getting his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and biology in 1988, Jarvis attended Rockefeller University to pursue his Doctor of Philosophy degree in molecular neurobiology and animal behavior. While there, he conducted research on the vocal learning processes of songbirds.
After earning his doctorate in 1995, he continued his studies at Rockefeller University in order to participate in postdoctoral research. After finishing his postdoctoral study, Jarvis joined the faculty of Rockefeller University as an adjunct assistant professor. He also took part in the Science Outreach Program of New York, in which he taught laboratory skills to high school students in inner city areas of the city. In 1998, he accepted a position as an assistant professor in the department of neurobiology at Duke University. This move followed his departure from Rockefeller.
Additionally, Jarvis held the position of assistant professor in both the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience and the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology throughout his time at the university. In 2005, he served as the leader of the Avian Brain Nomenclature Consortium, which consisted of twenty-eight neuroscientists. Together, they developed a new nomenclature for the avian brain, which was intended to better highlight the parallels between the cognitive capacities of birds and mammals. In 2005, Jarvis was promoted to the position of tenured associate professor at Duke University. The following year, he was offered a position as an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
He has authored more than fifty papers in academic journals and has been asked to contribute to a number of books as an expert. Jarvis has been recognized as a young pioneer in his field, and his research and study of songbird neurology have won him a number of awards, including the National Science Foundation Alan T. Waterman Award, the Dominion Award: Strong Men and Women of Excellence: African American Leaders, and the National Institute for the Humanities Director’s Pioneer Award in 2005. Jarvis’s research and study of songbird neurology have also won him many awards.
In the past, he has been a member of the Council on Black Affairs at Duke University, the head of the Neuroscience Scholars Program for The Society of Neuroscience, and a founding member of the Black Collective at Duke. Jarvis and his wife Miriam Rivas have two children, and they now make their home in Durham, North Carolina. On February 20, 2012, Erich Jarvis was the subject of an interview with The History Makers. Jarvis’s father reappeared from the woods in 1984, having lost his toes to frostbite, and spent the next year living with his son and his father (Jarvis’s paternal grandpa). This was the longest stretch of time that Jarvis had ever spent with his father.
In an interview that took place in 2002 with People magazine, Jarvis said, “It was a true reunion.” Jarvis’s father gave him lessons in philosophy and mathematics over the course of a year-long tutoring session. James Jarvis’s body was discovered in 1989 in a public park close to his residence in Washington Heights. It seems that he was the target of an unprovoked gunshot.
In an interview with Sara Ramer for the New York Times, Jarvis stated the following about his father: “I have no idea how many of those folks living on the streets are also scientists… On the other hand, my dad was a researcher. He was a pioneer in the field. He was educating himself on various methods of survival. He set out to discover the one rule that underpinned all other laws.” Jarvis and his family went through times of financial difficulty when he was a child, and they had to rely significantly on the help of extended family members to get by. Jarvis had his education in ballet, ethnic dance, and contemporary dance at the High School of Performing Arts in Brooklyn, where he excelled academically and became an excellent student.
In spite of the fact that he was extended an opportunity to dance with the illustrious Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the National Institute of General Medical Studies (NIGMS) also extended an offer of financial assistance to him so that he could attend Hunter College and major in biology and mathematics. “I knew when I was leaving high school that I wanted to do something with a larger impact on the world,” Jarvis explained in an interview with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2002. “And science provided the creativity I had learned through my art training as well as the rigor and discipline. “I knew when I was leaving high school that I wanted to do something with a larger impact on the world.”
In 1983, Jarvis enrolled at Hunter College and immediately started working in the laboratory of Rifka Rudner, a specialist in molecular biology. As an undergraduate, Jarvis was a highly motivated and eager student who contributed to the authorship of a number of publications. For his work, the National Institutes of Health presented him with an award for Excellence in Biomedical Research in the year 1986. Rudner remembered Kirsten Weir in 2007 for the article that appeared in the Scientist magazine that “You had to push him out of the lab so he’d go home and sleep,”
In addition to his academic pursuits, Jarvis managed to make time for his personal life. He maintained his dance career with a number of different organizations, where he also made the acquaintance of his future wife, Miriam Rivas, who later became a member of his research team. Following his graduation from Hunter University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and mathematics, Jarvis applied for and was awarded a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to continue his education at Rockefeller University. He decided to pursue a dual concentration in animal behavior and molecular neurobiology there. After some time had passed, Jarvis said in his bio statement at Duke University, “I wanted to research either the beginnings of the cosmos or how the brain works. “I went with the second option. My choices were made solely on the basis of things that fascinated me.”
Jarvis was able to get guidance from the famous biologist Fernando Nottebohm, whose research centered on the development of neurons in the brains of birds. Ironically, Nottebohm recalled Jarvis as “the most unorganized and chaotic member of my laboratory” in an interview with Jerry Adler published in the Smithsonian magazine in 2006. Although Jarvis had been a standout student at Hunter, he was now having trouble competing with the best in the field of biological research. This was in part because of the hectic pace of his personal life.
“I was helping to sustain six people and performing my studies at the same time,” Jarvis remembered to Dreifus in the New York Times. “These individuals included my great-grandmother, who was staying with us; my wife, Miriam, who was also a postdoc; her son; and our two children.” “It was a challenge. When you are in the middle of it, you don’t have time to think about it. Years later, though, I came to the realization that I was quite worn out and fatigued.” In 1988, Jarvis attended Hunter College in Manhattan and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with concentrations in both Biology and Mathematics.
After completing his undergraduate degree, he continued his education at Rockefeller University, where he earned a doctorate in neurobiology in 1995. At the time, he was one of just 52 Blacks in the United States to acquire a doctorate in a biological science field. Following the successful completion of his post-doctoral fellowship, Jarvis was offered a position as an assistant professor in the neurobiology department at Duke University. There, he researched the development of voice learning across evolutionary time as well as the molecular biology underlying vocal learning.
Even with his busy schedule, Dr. Jarvis makes time to dance with students at Duke University. His specialty is African dance. He is the director of minority recruiting for his department, and he likes working on tough projects that investigate how the brain develops complicated behaviors. His laboratory is diverse. When he came to Rockefeller University in December 2016 to take a position there as a professor and the director of the laboratory for the Laboratory of Neurogenetics of Language, he began his new role.
His pioneering work elucidates the neurobiological underpinnings of bird song at the tissue, cellular, and genetic levels. The vocal learning skills of birds and the process by which they learn to imitate other sounds are at the center of Jarvis’s study. Through genetic neuro-engineering techniques such as inserting new genes into the forebrain, recent research aims to turn non-singing animals such as pigeons into singing birds by giving them the ability to sing. In the event that this is effective, it may have repercussions for the treatment of stroke patients who have lost their ability to communicate.
Erich Jarvis Profile-
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