Announcement Regarding Rui Costa, Director and CEO of the Zuckerman Institute

December 16, 2021

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing to share the sad and happy news that Dr. Rui Costa will be stepping down from his role as Director and CEO of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute on June 30, 2022, at the end of this academic year, in order to serve as the next President and CEO of the Allen Institute in Seattle, Washington. While it is an understatement to say his leadership at the Zuckerman Institute will be missed, I am very glad that Rui intends to maintain a research presence here at Columbia and that he will also remain Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology. 

Rui is an expert in learning and memory whose research asks profound questions about how we initiate, repeat, and refine our physical movements. His work has yielded transformative insights into some of humanity’s most complex and confounding disorders. These include investigations into the neural basis of Parkinson’s disease and the links between brain circuitry, learning, and habit formation, which help to illuminate conditions like autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

I appointed Rui as CEO of the Zuckerman Institute more than four years ago. It was during his tenure that the Institute took shape in its new home in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on the Manhattanville campus in an environment that fosters discovery through collaboration across disciplines. Under Rui’s direction, the Institute expanded its roster of scientists to over 850 people—including 52 faculty from 19 departments, established programs to support researchers early in their career, strengthened engagement and education programs that bring brain science to young people and New York City residents of all ages, and exhibited significant commitment to increasing diversity in the field, in which minority representation is far too low. 

In addition to his leadership at the Zuckerman Institute, Rui has been a wonderful University citizen, most recently in leading Columbia’s COVID-19 Research Working Group, which advised me and University leadership on research health and safety protocols. 

We all know that Rui is a very special person—an individual of immense capacities to connect with people and to care for what matters in life. He is a spectacular colleague, and his absence among us will be difficult to adjust to. Our great Zuckerman Institute will, of course, continue to thrive under the leadership of Codirectors Richard Axel and Eric Kandel, along with the significant number of talented scientists and administrators whose lives are dedicated to transforming our understanding of the brain and mind. But, for this moment, we celebrate Rui for leaving an indelible mark upon our University.  


Lee C. Bollinger