William Mobley earns international acclaim for his research work on Down syndrome


William C. Mobley is a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine. He also serves as Executive Director of the UCSD Down Syndrome Center for Research and Treatment. He came to UCSD in June 2009 from Stanford University where he served as the John E. Cahill Family Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and was the founding director of the Neuroscience Institute.

He has an international reputation for his research on degenerative disease of the central nervous system, and his work on the neurobiology of Down syndrome has brought new insights into the disease, including possible treatments. In December, he received the International Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Prize for his work. The award is named for the scientist who discovered the extra chromosome 21 responsible for Down syndrome.

Dr. Mobley earned his Ph.D. and M.D. degrees from Stanford University, and completed a residency and fellowship in neurology and pediatric neurology at The Johns Hopkins University. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and in 2006 was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

What brought you to La Jolla?

It was the opportunity to join the terrific faculty in neurosciences at UCSD. This is just a fabulous place to work for the well being of patients with neurological disorders and for integrating clinical activities with the great science that goes on here.

What makes this area special to you?

The unusual combination of really nice people with a collaborative spirit and the sense that any good thing one wants to do is possible here. Add to this that it is all happening right here in La Jolla and one could really not do better – anywhere, ever!

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would bring all my children, and their families, and organize things so that they could live nearby.

Who or what inspires you?

There are so many people in my life that play this role, my wife Gretchen; my sons Bret, Blake and Tyler; my daughters-in-law Allison, Sarah and Megan; and my wonderful grandchildren Harrison, Harper and Finn. And beyond my family, it’s the faculty and staff that I serve and the patients that we care for. A special inspiration comes from the opportunity to try to help people with Down syndrome and their families. In all these people, I am truly blessed.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I think the perfect list would include Socrates, Plato, Spinoza, Emerson, Jesus, Martin Luther, the Dalai Lama, Paul McCartney and my mother and father. I know that is 10, but we can just order a little more food.

We would ask Jesus to say the prayer, Spinoza to lead the toasting, and Paul to sing a song or two. Then we would all revel in the evolution of human thought, how each age made and is making its very special contribution, and speculate about the future.

What are you reading?

“The Soul Made Flesh,” by Carl Zimmer. It’s a really good, albeit somewhat technical, read about the emergence of neurology – i.e. brain science.

What is your most-prized possession?

The ability to listen.

What do you do for fun?

I have to say that I really just like to work; my work is my fun. Having said this, I am planning to spend time re-engaging in my interest in model railroading, and would like to do some model airplane flying. Oh yeah, and I have a really nice camera that I need to learn to use more effectively.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Living long enough, and being lucky enough, to realistically forecast a time when the science that has been done in our lab, and many others, is used to create medical therapies for people with Down syndrome.

What is your motto?

I have a number of them, but one of my favorites is “always happy, never content.”