Erich Jarvis was a high school student at the School of the Performing Arts in New York City. Upon graduation, he had to choose between continuing as a dancer and becoming a scientist. He chose science. Jarvis pursued his undergraduate degree at Hunter College where he found that the discipline and creativity of his dance training were equally applicable to scientific study. Jarvis went on to do graduate and postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University where he made his first studies of songbird learning.
Jarvis is currently an Associate Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. His lab studies how the brain controls complex behaviors. To this end, they study the molecular pathways involved in vocal learning in songbirds. Jarvis has received numerous awards and honors for his work including an NSF Alan T. Waterman Award and an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award.