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Chris B Schaffer

  • Chris B Schaffer
  • Dept: Biomedical Engineering
  • Title: Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
  • Address: B57 Weill Hall
  • Phone: 607 342-7737
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Chris B. Schaffer is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. He received his undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Florida and his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University, where he worked with Eric Mazur. As a post-doc at University of California, San Diego, Chris worked with David Kleinfeld in the Physics and Neuroscience programs. His lab at Cornell develops advanced optical techniques that enable quantitative imaging and targeted manipulation of individual cells in the central nervous system of rodents with the goal of identifying interactions among cells that cause neurological disease. One area of current focus is the role of brain blood flow disruptions in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Prof. Schaffer is also active in developing novel educational strategies to teach science as a dynamic process for discovery. These approaches are used in outreach settings in middle and high-school science classes as well as in his undergraduate and graduate level courses. Chris also has a strong interest in science policy and spent a sabbatical in Washington, DC, working as a science policy advisor for Representative Edward Markey in the United States Congress.

Research Interests

My lab develops and uses advanced optical techniques to observe and manipulate in vivo biological systems, with the goal of constructing a microscopic-scale understanding of normal and disease-state physiological processes in the central nervous system. The scientific questions we address center principally on elucidating the cellular-scale interactions that lead to brain cell dysfunction in neurological diseases. We develop novel optical methods that enable us to attack these problems in ways not previously possible, and because many of our research questions involve interactions among different components of an organism (e.g. effect of altered blood flow on brain cell health) we focus almost exclusively on in vivo approaches. In summary, my lab's efforts center on in vivo experiments investigating the cellular dynamics that underlie neurological disease, supported by the development of novel optical techniques. My lab studies animal models of a variety of neurological diseases, including microvascular stroke, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, and epilepsy. In all of these projects, we take a novel experimental approach that utilizes optical tools we develop to both manipulate and quantify cell-level dynamic interactions. This approach has elucidated novel biological mechanisms that underlie these neurological diseases. Much of my lab's work focuses on developing an understanding of the role of cortical microvascular lesions in neurodegenerative disease, and we are now a leader in the critical effort to determine the mechanisms by which occlusions or hemorrhages in small cortical blood vessels lead to the neuronal damage and neuroinflammation that may drive loss of cognitive function. In exciting new work, we are beginning to elucidate the pathways by which cortical microvascular dysfunction interacts with and exacerbates Alzheimer's disease. In addition, we have launched several new research directions in the last few years that center on other neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury and epilepsy.

Selected Publications

Selected Awards and Honors

  • James M. and Marsha D. McCormick Award for Outstanding Advising of First-Year Engineering Students (College of Engineering at Cornell) 2014
  • Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Science Policy Fellowship (Optical Society of America and SPIE) 2012
  • Zellman Warhaft Committment to Diversity Faculty Award (College of Engineering at Cornell University) 2010
  • Biomedical Engineering Teaching Award (American Society for Engineering Education) 2009
  • CAREER award (National Science Foundation) 2009



  • BS (Physics), University of Florida, 1995
  • Ph D (Physics), Harvard University, 2001