Robert Schneeveis

Bob Schneeveis1996 Marsh O'Neill Award Winner

Robert Schneeveis is a science and engineering associate in the Medical School's Neurobiology Department.

After winning the 1986 Marsh O'Neill Award, Schneeveis said he was pleased "to be appreciated by the people that I enjoy doing work for." Schneeveis came to Stanford in 1983, first working for the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, then joining the staff of the neurobiology department a year later. Schneeveis said he had no training in biology but has always had an interest in it, so when a job in neurobiology became available he jumped at the chance.

When researchers in neurobiology conduct complex experiments, they must rely on instruments that aren't readily at hand. And it is Schneeveis on whom they rely to design and construct such tools. He has designed and built instruments for studying the function of nerve cells in the retina as they respond to light stimuli. Other instruments Schneeveis developed are used to deliver sound stimuli to an animal from any location in the space around the head, while electrical recordings are made from microelectrodes in the brain. These include special remote-controlled miniature micromanipulators used to advance multiple electrodes into the brain independently, one micrometer at a time.

"My position is to enable students to get their jobs done better; to take the rocks from in front of [their] paths. I get involved to solve the mechanical problems so they can get their science done, then I always get interested in what they are doing," he said.

Schneeveis sees a direct connection between the mechanics and the biology. "As men and women, we cannot invent or design or build anything that there is not a model for inside our body. There is the working model for anything we're going to build or anything we can build. We get our inspiration from within ourselves. Somewhere in nature is a model of what the heck I'm trying to do," he said. Schneeveis, who works with area junior high and high schools hoping to encourage students to become future "electric-vehicle engineers," said he hopes to put his $2,000 O'Neill prize into furthering that effort.

"He's just a superb asset for all of us in the neurobiology department," said Dr. Denis Baylor, one of four neurobiology faculty members who wrote a glowing letter on his behalf. "We are delighted that he got this award. It seemed to us that he was an ideal recipient, and we're glad that the selection committee agreed."

From the Stanford News, December 3, 1996

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