John Spiro

Interim Director of SFARI a scientific initiative within the Simons Foundation

Haverford College, B.S. Biology
University of California, San Diego, Ph.D. Biology, Neuroscience

John Spiro joined the Simons Foundation in 2007 and until 2020 was deputy scientific director, where he worked with the SFARI director to oversee all aspects of the foundation’s autism research initiatives, including managing a team of scientists and administrative staff involved in launching requests for applications, evaluating proposals and other projects, organizing scientific workshops and meetings and overseeing SFARI.org. He helped launch the Simons Variation in Individuals Project (now Simons Searchlight) and has spearheaded the foundation’s efforts to promote the use of preprints in the life sciences as well as other initiatives aimed at more open data sharing.

Spiro earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Haverford College and his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. His thesis was based on work in the laboratory of the late Walter Heiligenberg, and his postdoctoral work was with Richard Mooney at Duke University. His research interests were in cellular and systems neuroscience, and he focused on preparations where it was possible to forge links between cellular neurobiology and behavior.


What are you most proud of in your work or life?

Raising two terrific daughters and helping to build the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative into what it is today.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Hiking, bicycling, sailing, cooking (and eating!)

An embarrassing moment or moment of failure in your STEM career or academic experience?

Too many to list! But near the top is consistently underestimating how big and diverse the world of ideas is — and how much more I have to learn.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Science done in silos.

Do you have a personal motto or other words to live by?

Keep an open mind.

Favorite snack food?


What advice would you give your younger self?

Stop worrying so much about the future and take life one step at a time.


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