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The annual lecture, in honour of the renowned physiologist, Marianne Fillenz (1924 - 2012), will be held on Thursday 5 March 2020.

Marianne sat by a river in a raincoat

The Marianne Fillenz Memorial Lecture 2020 is to take place on Thursday 5 March 2020 at 1.15pm in the Large Lecture Theatre, Sherrington Building.

Decorative poster of 2020 Fillenz lecture - Thursday 5 march, 1.15pm in the Sherrington large lecture theatre, followed by a drinks reception

Marianne Fillenz was inspired by Jack Eccles FRS, Professor of Physiology at Otago and a previous research student and colleague of Sir Charles Sherrington PRS in Oxford, to focus her research on physiology during her pre-clinical medical studies at the University of Otago, and consequentially to move to Oxford to undertake a DPhil in Physiology.

She came to Somerville College in 1950 and remained in Oxford for the rest of her life. Her DPhil in the Laboratory of Physiology with Sybil Cooper and David Whitteridge studied receptors responding to stretch of the eye muscles. Her work showed clearly that an eye muscle length signal is indeed supplied to the brain in the cat, a fact later confirmed in humans.

After her DPhil, Marianne spent nine years as a College Lecturer at St Hilda’s and as a University Demonstrator in the Laboratory of Physiology, alongside leading independent research in a large suite of labs in the Sherrington Building. While her work across the 1950s was mainly devoted to motor physiology and eye muscles, years later her research interests evolved to focus on the anatomy and physiology of the autonomic nervous system, and she became the local expert on the subject. Marianne was one of the first people to use and develop the technique of voltammetry (electrochemical scanning of transmitters that transport signals from one neuron to another) to measure catecholamine release deep in the brain. Her landmark paper on this subject, published in Neuroscience in 1982, is entitled Linear sweep voltammetry with carbon paste electrodes in the rat striatum. Her technique of linear sweep voltammetry to measure dopamine release in the rat striatum in still much in use today. She went onto work closely with John Albery FRS, a Distinguished Chemist at Oxford, to develop voltammetry electrodes for conveniently measuring many other substances, such as glucose, alcohol, amino acids, oxygen, CO2 and N2O. Consequently, her lab was positioned at the forefront of the application of measuring chemicals that could be detected directly at the electrode.

As well as a highly productive research scientist, Marianne was a devoted and much loved teacher. The talk held in her honour, entitled Dynamic control of presynaptic function in health and disease, is due to be given by Dr Nils Brose from the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine in Goettingen, Germany, a former student of Marianne's.

Nils Brose studied Biochemistry and Biology at Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, and Physiology at Oxford in the lab of Marianne Fillenz, receiving his MSc from Oxford in 1987. He received his doctorate in Biology from Ludwig Maximilians University Munich in 1990, before becoming a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute/San Diego and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/Dallas (1991-1995). He was a Heisenberg Fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine between 1995 and 2001 before becoming the Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine since 2001. He has also been Adjunct Professor at Göttingen University since 2002.

At the Max Planck Institute, his group's research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of nerve cell development and synapse formation and function in the vertebrate central nervous system. 

Dr Brose was very impressed by Fillenz during his time at Oxford as a young MSc student: "She gave me freedom to develop my skills but at the same time was very insistent in teaching me what she regarded to be important, e.g. produce reliable data before showing them around on posters at meetings or investing all my energy into writing papers properly. I remember that my first paper draft must have gone through 15 or so versions before submission, which was a learning experience that I have benefited from ever since." (Book of Recollections: Marianne Fillenz 5th October 1924 - 15th December 2012 from St Anne's College).

All members of the University are welcome!