About Dr. Tian

Lin Tian, Ph.D.

Scientific Director, Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

Adjunct Professor, University of California Davis

Dr. Lin Tian.

Lin Tian, PhD is a Scientific Director at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. The Tian Laboratory for Optical Neurophysiology engineers biosensors and optical probes for monitoring and controlling brain activity in living, behaving research animals. Dr. Tian and her team have developed and optimized calcium indicators for chronic recording of neural signaling and have recently created a novel class of genetically encoded indicators to sense neuromodulators, enabling the precise measurement of spatiotemporal dynamics of neuromodulator release. These tools, when combined with behavioral and circuit manipulations, can reveal the brain mechanisms underlying the control of various behaviors in health and disease and serve as drug discovery platforms for the identification of novel therapeutic targets. 

Dr. Tian’s imaging techniques enable new types of biological experiments to address previously intractable questions, resulting in 4 patents for biosensor technology and GPCR screening methods. Through workshops and training programs at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Riken Center for Brain Science, Champalimaud Foundation, and others, she disseminates her reagents and protocols to the broader research community. Dr. Tian and her research have been recognized by the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award, W.M. Keck Foundation Research Award, Human Frontier Science Program Young Investigator Grant, Hartwell Foundation Individual Biomedical Research Award, Rita Allen Foundation Scholar Award, and NIH BRAIN Initiative grants. 

Prior to joining MPFI, she was a Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Tian trained at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Loren Looger, Dr. Karel Svoboda, and Dr. Luke Lavis. She completed her PhD at Northwestern University and a BA in Neuroscience from the University of Science and Technology of China.

Academic Appointments

2023 – present
Scientific Director, Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
2023 - present
Adjunct Professor, University of California, Davis
2021 – 2023
Professor & Vice Chair, University of California, Davis
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Center for Neuroscience
2017 – 2021
Associate Professor, University of California, Davis
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Center for Neuroscience
2012 – 2017
Assistant Professor, University of California, Davis
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Center for Neuroscience
2009 – 2012
Research Specialist, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Janelia Research Campus Advisor: Loren Looger
2007 – 2009
Postdoctoral Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Janelia Research Campus Advisor: Loren Looger

Education

2001 – 2007
Northwestern University
Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology
Thesis: Understanding the Mechanism of Protein Processing by the Proteasome
Advisor: Andreas Matouschek
1996 – 2001
University of Science and Technology of China
B.A. in Neuroscience

Select Honors & Awards

2022
W.M. Keck Foundation Research Award
2019
Human Frontier Science Program Research Award
2017
Trisomy 21 Research Society Young Investigator Travel Award
2014
NIH Director’s Innovator Award
2014
Rita Allen Scholar
2013
Human Frontier Science Program Young Investigator Award
2013
Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award

Select Invited Talks

2023
Society for Neuroscience, Washington DC
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Bioengineering Seminar, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
2022
Keynote Speaker, Optogenetics Gordon Research Conference (GRC), Newry, ME
Nobel Lecture on Neuropeptides, Stockholm, Sweden
Plenary Speaker, Dopamine 2022, Montreal, Canada
2021
Special Lecture, Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, IL
Distinguished Speaker, Allen Brain Institute, Seattle, WA
2020
Neuroscience Department Seminar, University of Texas Austin, Austin, TX
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Virtual
2019
Society for Neuroscience, Washington DC
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Bioengineering Seminar, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
2018
Kavli Futures Symposium: Next-Generation Neurotechnology for Research and Medicine, Santa Monica, CA
BRAIN Investigators Annual Meeting, Bethesda, MD
2017
Society of General Physiologists Meeting, Woods Hole, MA
Society of General Physiologists Meeting, Woods Hole, MA
Sculpted Light in the Brain, Kavli Foundation, Santa Monica, CA
Biophysical Society 61st Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA
2016
Fluorescent Proteins and Biological Sensors V, HHMI Janelia, Ashburn, VA
2015
NIH High-Risk, High-Reward Research Symposium, Bethesda, MD
Francis Crick Symposium: Advances in Neuroscience, Cold Spring Harbor Asia, China
2014
Monitoring Molecules in Neuroscience, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Los Angeles, CA
2013
Department of Chemical Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
US-Japan Biosensing and Nanotechnology Workshop, Japan
2012
Fluorescent Proteins and Biological Sensors III, HHMI Janelia, Ashburn, VA

Teaching

2013 – 2023
T32 Training Grants – Molecular and Cellular Biology, Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Learning and Memory, Vision Science
2013 – 2017
BCB220L – Advanced Lab Rotation (BMCDB grad students; 4 units), Instructor & co-IOR
2014 – 2015
CHE118C – Organic Chemistry for Health and Life Sciences, Instructor
2014 – 2015
BME/BPH255 – Biophotonics in Medicine and Life Science, Instructor
2014 – 2023
BCM410A – Molecular Medicine (medical students), Instructor
2014 – 2023
BMM 190 – Undergraduate Research (2 units), IOR
2014 – 2019
MDS411A-B – Doctoring (medical students), Instructor
2018 – 2023
Learning and Memory, Instructor
2020 – 2022
EEC 289L – Introduction to Neuroengineering (4 units), Instructor
2020 – 2023
BIM2 04 – Physiology for Bioengineers (5 units), Instructor & IOR

Service

Leadership

2021 – 2023
Appointed Director, AggieLight Initiative, UC Davis
2020 – 2023
Vice Chair of Research, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, UC Davis
2018 – 2023
Member, Strategic Planning Committee, UC Davis

Select Committees

2020
Member, Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology Membership Committee, UC Davis
2017 – 2023
Member, Institutional Animal Care And Use Committee, UC Davis
2015 – 2017
Member, Preliminary Exam Committees, Neuroscience, UC Davis
2013 – 2023
Member, Graduate Admissions Committees, Neuroscience, Biochemistry, MCDB, Biomedical Engineering, UC Davis

Learn more about our research.

Read our most recent publications.

Meet our lab’s team members.