ANU appoints Director of the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience

Professor John Watson, newly-appointed Director of the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience
16 May 2022

The Australian National University announces the appointment of Professor John Watson AM as the Director of the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience.

The Eccles Institute was established in 2012 in the state-of-the-art facilities at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. It currently comprises over a dozen independent research groups, with a research focus on cellular and synaptic physiology, sensory physiology, retina, and muscle; and is home to the well-regarded Masters of Neuroscience Program. The Eccles Institute is named after neurophysiologist Sir John Carew Eccles (1903-1997), the inaugural Professor of Physiology at ANU and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1963.

The appointment of Professor John Watson follows a strategic review chaired by Professor Sir Edward Byrne AC, and the University’s decision to establish a university-wide institute to harness excellence in fundamental, cognitive, computational, and philosophical neurosciences and related disciplines, and to develop the key ANU-wide, clinical and commercial partnerships that will allow it to flourish and grow.

A neuroscientist and a clinical and academic leader, Professor Watson has First Class Honours degrees in both Medicine and Science, is a Rhodes Scholar and graduated in 1981 from Oxford University with a DPhil in Neurophysiology.

Following clinical neurology training, Professor Watson undertook postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of Neurology and at University College London in high-resolution functional and structural brain imaging of the human visual system using positron emission tomography and high-resolution structural magnetic resonance imaging to study colour appreciation, visual motion, and edge detection.

Professor Watson is now a Consultant Neurologist at Sydney Adventist Hospital, where he also serves as Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee and a Director of Adventist HealthCare Limited, and where he led the establishment of the original University of Sydney Clinical School in 2011. He has additional appointments at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai, The Mater, and Royal Prince Alfred Hospitals, and has held senior academic leadership roles including Associate Dean and Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of Sydney, and Senior Vice Dean, Clinical Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW.

In addition to his clinical and academic standing, Professor Watson brings to the Institute strong professional, industry and philanthropic connections. He is also Deputy National Secretary of The Rhodes Scholarships Australia and, in 2015, was honoured as Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to medicine in the field of neurology, to medical education and administration, and through mentoring roles.

Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine, Professor Russell Gruen, said “Since he met Sir John Eccles at Oxford, Professor Watson has had a distinguished career as a clinician and scientist who is ideally suited to leading the Eccles Institute to become an interdisciplinary centre of excellence in neuroscience that engages with the major challenges of our time – which is very much the vision of Eccles himself.”

Professor Watson has commenced and will now take up the task of developing the interdisciplinary Eccles Institute. Professor John Bekkers, Head of the Division of Neuroscience in the John Curtin School of Medical Research, will continue to provide leadership and supervision to its staff and students.