The challenge: How does our internal biological clock guide our bodies throughout the day?
The work: With Drs. Michael Rosbash and Michael Young, Dr. Hall discovered that our circadian clocks are regulated by a small group of genes that work at the level of the individual cell. Subtle mutations in any of these genes can accelerate or slow our daily rhythms.
Why it matters: Their discoveries about the biological clock have applications for sleep and appetite disorders. There are also applications for organs such as the brain, liver, lungs and skin, which use the same genetic mechanisms to control their rhythmic activities.
Jeffrey Hall received a PhD in genetics from the University of Washington and was appointed to the Faculty of Brandeis University from 1974-2007. Throughout his research career, Hall has focused on the genetics of Drosophila. He worked in the laboratories of his undergraduate advisor, Philip Ives; graduate advisor, Laurence M. Sandler; and post-doctoral advisor at the California Institute of Technology, Seymour Benzer (the first to show that genes dictate the day-night cycle of activity in fruit flies). In particular, Hall has focused on the neurobiological basis of courtship behavior in Drosophila.
Dr. Hall is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Genetics Society of America medal (2003) and the 2009 Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation Neuroscience Prize, both with Michael Rosbash and Michael Young.