In 1990 Susumu Tonegawa, winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, decided that he'd like to make something of a career change. Tonegawa, who won for his findings on the mechanism of antibody diversity and antigen recognition, chose to move away from his vocation as an immunologist and pursue a longtime fascination with neuroscience. He sought, in effect, to shift the focus of his entire lab.

Nine years later, the conversion is complete: Tonegawa recently sent out his last immunology graduate student. But how did he and his immunologist labmates garner the know-how and tools necessary to make the switch? And how did these neuroscience newcomers, seemingly starting from scratch, gain the respect of their neuroscientist peers?

The research team includes, clockwise from left, Arvind Govindarajan, Tom McHugh, Susumu Tonegawa, and Chanel Lovett.
The key, says Tonegawa, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and director of...

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