Roderick MacKinnon’s research has aimed to understand the molecular mechanisms of a class of integral membrane proteins known as ion channels. He received an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University, a medical degree from Tufts University, and training in internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He began his scientific career studying the biophysics of potassium channels at Brandeis University from 1986-1989. He joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School as Asst. Prof. of Physiology (1989), Assoc. Prof. of Neurobiology (1992) and Prof. of Neurobiology (1995). During this period he and his laboratory characterized potassium channels – their subunit stoichiometry, pore-lining amino acids, and components of their gates – through biochemical and functional analysis. He moved to Rockefeller University in 1996 and became an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1997. Over the past seventeen years his laboratory provided the first atomic structures of selective ion channels, which have revealed the chemical basis of potassium and chloride ion selectivity. They have also determined the atomic structures and discovered mechanisms of voltage-dependent, G-protein-dependent, and lipid-gated ion channels, all of which underlie the complex electrical signals produced in the central nervous system.