Jue Chen, a structural biologist whose research focuses on transporter proteins that act as the cell’s pumping machinery, will join Rockefeller as professor and head of laboratory in July. Dr. Chen, currently a tenured professor of biology at Purdue University in Indiana, is especially interested in the role of transporter proteins in health and disease.
A new $25 million initiative, created earlier this academic year to help develop basic research discoveries into new medical therapies, has had a promising launch, with $1.55 million in awards granted to Rockefeller scientists in its initial phase. The first awards are for proof-of-concept projects aimed at identifying and validating potential therapeutic targets. They include pilot funding for 12 early stage projects, two novel diagnostics, one vaccine and one stem cell therapy approach. Funding was also provided to four more advanced projects: one for development of a vaccine and three for novel cancer therapeutics.
Jointly hosted by the Development Office’s Parents & Science initiative and the Science Outreach program, headed by Jeanne Garbarino, the day-long event was open to children ages 6 to 18 and their parents, grandparents and teachers. The festivities included more than 20 learning stations, scattered throughout the CRC, which were conceptualized and staffed by nearly 70 Rockefeller lab heads, postdocs and students, as well as former Summer Science Research Program participants.
The Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI), an initiative with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College begun last fall to help expedite early-stage drug discovery, will announce this month the first projects it has selected for funding. Six proposals will be funded from among 48 letters of interest submitted by researchers at the three institutions.
For labs on campus that sequence genomes — and share those large data sets with other institutions — a recent quadrupling in internet bandwidth means an end to the practice of slowing down uploads or scheduling them during overnight hours. In April the university upgraded its internet connection to two gigabits per second for both incoming and outgoing traffic. The new higher speed is approximately 130 times faster than a typical residential broadband connection.
Among the limits of modern medicine is the element of human error. Atul Gawande, surgeon, professor, writer and public health researcher, reminds us that doctors make mistakes. But as an advocate for reducing error and increasing efficiency in health care, he also wants to help the profession make fewer of them.
Gerald M. Edelman, a Rockefeller alumnus, former faculty member and Nobel laureate who uncovered the chemical structure of the antibody in 1961, died on May 18 at the age of 84. A graduate of Henry Kunkel’s laboratory and a member of the university’s second graduating class, Dr. Edelman received his Ph.D. in 1960 and remained at Rockefeller for 34 years, becoming Vincent Astor Professor. He also served as assistant and then associate dean of graduate studies.
C. David Allis, the 2014 Japan Prize in Life Sciences from the Japan Prize Foundation, for his pioneering work in epigenetics and his discovery that chemical modifications of DNA-packaging proteins play a key role in regulating the activity of individual genes. The prize, worth approximately half a million dollars, is among the most prestigious international prizes in science. Dr. Allis is Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics.
Registration to be required for bicycles. In an effort to encourage safe bicycle use and eliminate abandoned bikes, the university is implementing a bicycle registration program. Required permits will be issued at the security desk in Founder’s Hall for no charge. Beginning February 3, any bike that has not been registered will be removed from the university’s bicycle racks or other storage locations; the owner will have 30 days to pick it up before it is donated to charity.
The university’s formal application for city zoning approval to build a 160,000 square foot laboratory building over the FDR Drive has been approved by Community Board 8, a key step in the city’s multi-agency review of the project. The “River Building” proposal grew out of the university’s recent master planning process and has been under development for over a year. Several city agencies with a stake in the project have already signed off on it, and the university’s application was formally certified on November 4 by the Department of City Planning, beginning a process that ultimately takes it before the city council. The January 8 vote of Community Board 8, which serves as an advisory body to other city agencies and represents a large swath of the Upper East Side, was 25 to 3, suggesting that the proposal has strong neighborhood support.
When Timothy P. O’Connor left his faculty position in the department of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in 2009, it was for an opportunity he couldn’t pass up — to be associate provost for science and technology at Yale University. He would be a key part of the leadership team in charge of tackling tough questions about how best to allocate resources to support scientists. But it also meant leaving the city he had come to love as his adopted hometown. After four years in New Haven, however, he has made his way back to New York, landing just a block away from the institution he called home for seven years. The role he has accepted at Rockefeller is not unlike the one he had at Yale, but Rockefeller’s lean administration and exclusive scientific focus, along with its ambitious new strategic plan, means he will have the opportunity to focus on both the big picture issues and day-to-day operations involved in running the institution. Dr. O’Connor was named vice president for university strategy and research operations, as well as chief of staff in the president’s office, in April. He started in June.
Sebastian Klinge, named to Rockefeller’s faculty in June as its newest tenure-track member, is a biochemist and structural biologist interested in understanding the ribosome, the cell’s protein factory. Dr. Klinge’s laboratory, the Laboratory of Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry, opened on September 15. Dr. Klinge is the first junior faculty member to be recruited under the university’s nine-year strategic plan approved in 2012, and the first faculty member of any rank to join the university since Vanessa Ruta opened her laboratory in 2011.
John Tooze, known as much for his wry British wit as for the immense role he’s had in shaping the university’s scientific infrastructure over the last eight years, retired from his position as vice president of scientific and facility operations in May 2013. Dr. Tooze leaves a lasting mark on the university, having directed the construction of the Collaborative Research Center, the expansion and modernization of the animal research facility and the restoration of Welch Hall, among other projects.
Several ceremonies were held last year to commemorate years of service to the university by Rockefeller employees. In November, 33 members of the university were celebrated for 10 years of service. And in May, an Employee Recognition Reception was held to honor 31 employees who have worked at Rockefeller for 20 and 25 years, followed by an anniversary dinner honoring 20 retirees and 17 employees with 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 years of service.
The university’s Board of Trustees elected three new members in 2013: Anna Chapman, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York; Elizabeth Rivers Curry, founder and managing director of Eagle Capital Management, an investment firm; and Jonathan M. Nelson, chief executive officer and founder of Providence Equity Partners LLC, based in Rhode Island. Dr. Chapman and Mr. Nelson were elected at the March 13 board meeting, and Ms. Curry at the June 5 meeting.
The Rockefeller Board of Trustees has conferred its highest honor — one that has been given only twice previously — on James Simons, the philanthropist, mathematician and investment manager who has served on the univeristy’s Board since 2000. For his exceptional service to Rockefeller, Dr. Simons was elected a life trustee, a position shared with David Rockefeller, who was elected in 1995. Brooke Astor, the only other Board member to be named a life trustee, held the position from 1983 until her death in 2007. The Board also named Patricia Rosenwald an emeritus trustee in honor of her contributions to the university.
As a clinical psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison has been able to examine that line from a scientific perspective; and as a writer, she has shared both her scientific and personal findings on mental illness with the public. For her work, Dr. Jamison was presented with the 2012 Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science at a ceremony in Caspary Auditorium in June. The award recognized Dr. Jamison’s 1993 book Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which examines the relationship between artistic creativity and mood disorders.
Grant Martin, a research assistant in Paul Greengard’s lab, died unexpectedly at age 26 on July 26. Mr. Martin joined the Greengard lab in 2010 and worked under the supervision of Yong Kim, where he managed the lab’s microscopy facilities. His research interests were in Alzheimer’s disease and drug addiction and he performed dendritic spine analysis, immunocytochemistry and statistical analysis.
Titia de Lange, the 2013 Jill Rose award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, in recognition of her fundamental contributions to research on telomeres and their relationship to aging and cancer. The award was presented at the foundation’s annual symposium and awards luncheon in New York in October. Dr. de Lange is Leon Hess Professor and head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics.
The 2013 Convocation awarded 17 Ph.Ds to Rockefeller graduate fellows, bringing the total number of Rockefeller alumni to 1,127. Although rain in the early afternoon forced the cancellation of the traditional academic procession from Weiss to Caspary Auditorium, it did not dampen spirits. Following tradition, faculty mentors presented each student at a formal ceremony in Caspary. Afterwards, the campus community turned out for a reception in Weiss Café to celebrate the graduates.
Jason Pitts wasn’t entirely sure what to do with his life after graduating from college, back in 2008. So like any good scientist facing a big question, he came up with a series of experiments. Mr. Pitts tested out several careers — from medicine to teaching to pharmaceuticals — before concluding that bench science was his true passion and grad school was where he belonged. Mr. Pitts, now a graduate fellow in President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s lab, was recently honored for his dedication to thoughtful research and community service at this year’s Convocation luncheon, where he was awarded the David Rockefeller Fellowship.
As the graduating class of 2013 moves on to the next stages of life and career, the Rockefeller community welcomes the incoming group of graduate fellows. There were 719 applications received this year, and after careful consideration by the admissions committee, 69 applicants were offered admission to the university. Twenty-four students will enroll — 13 men and 11 women from 6 countries: China, Japan, Korea, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
At this year’s Convocation ceremony, honorary degrees were awarded to four proponents of basic science who have made invaluable contributions to science, through research and philanthropy. Günter Blobel, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor at Rockefeller; Paul Greengard, Vincent Astor Professor at Rockefeller; and James and Marilyn Simons, leaders in the philanthropic community, each accepted degrees.
Two Rockefeller faculty members were honored at the Convocation luncheon with this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards: Assistant Professor Luciano Marraffini and Leon Hess Assistant Professor Sohail Tavazoie. It is the 10th year that the awards, which recognize excellence in and dedication to the university’s educational environment, have been given to Rockefeller faculty members. Dr. Marraffini, head of the Laboratory of Bacteriology, and Dr. Tavazoie, head of the Elizabeth and Vincent Meyer Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology, were recognized for their passion and commitment to education at Rockefeller.
Presented by Nathaniel Heintz
B.S., Sabanci University
Decoding 5hmC as an Active Chromatin Mark in the Brain and its Link to Rett Syndrome
Presented by Bruce S. McEwen
B.A., New York University
Cannabinoid CB1R Receptor Mediates Metabolic Syndrome in Models of Circadian and Glucocorticoid Dysregulation
Presented by C. David Allis
B.S., M.S., University of Bologna
Discovery and Characterization of Methylation of Arginine 42 on Histone H3: A Novel Histone Modification with Positive Transcriptional Effects
Presented by Robert B. Darnell
B.A., University of Pennsylvania
RNA Dynamics in T Cell Activation
Presented by Sidney Strickland on behalf of Titia de Lange
B.S., University of Pisa
M.S., San Raffaele University
Telomere-driven Tetraploidy and its Relevance to Cancer
Presented by Howard C. Hang
B.S., Harvey Mudd College
Analysis of Small Molecule Inhibitors Aimed at Bacterial Virulence
Presented by Thomas P. Sakmar
B.S., Dickinson College
Application of Genetically-encoded Photoactivatable Crosslinkers to Map Ligand-binding Sites on G Protein Coupled Receptors
Presented by Thomas P. Sakmar
B.S., Stanford University
Studies of G Protein Coupled Receptor Stability and Dimerization Using Novel Fluorescence and Crosslinking Approaches
Presented by Sidney Strickland of behalf of A. James Hudspeth
B.S., New York Institute of Technology
Frequency Selectivity of Synaptic Exocytosis in Hair Cells of the Bullfrog’s Amphibian Papilla
Presented by Vincent A. Fischetti
B.S., Morehouse College
Determining the Phenotypic and Genotypic Response Exhibited by Streptococcus Pyogenes at the Human Palatine Tonsil
Presented by Paul Greengard
B.A., Christ’s College, University of Cambridge
Tuning of Neuronal Excitation by a Brain Specific MicroRNA miR-128: From Targets to Behavior
Presented by Robert B. Darnell on behalf of himself and Jennifer C. Darnell
B.A., Wellesley College
Mechanism of Translational Control by the Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein and Creation of the FMRP cTAG Mouse
Presented by Bruce S. McEwen on behalf of Donald W. Pfaff
B.S., Rhodes College
Deep Brain Stimulation to Increase Generalized Arousal in Intact Mice and a Mouse Model of Traumatic Brain Injury
Presented by Leslie B. Vosshall on behalf of Cori Bargmann
B.S., University of Kansas
An Analysis of Synaptotagmins in Caenorhabditis elegans
Bring your child to work. In celebration of national Take Your Child to Work Day, Human Resources will host activities for 8- to 12-year-olds from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 25. Children must be registered by April 19 and must be accompanied by an adult to attend. Space is limited. For more information, call x8300 or e-mail Brittany Regis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After nearly five years of construction, the final piece of the north campus modernization process is now complete and opens to the campus this month. The Welch Hall refurbishment, which began in January 2011, has finished on time and on budget and will link the north and south parts of the Rockefeller campus together with a twenty-first century library outfitted with grand study spaces and state-of-the-art meeting rooms.
You don’t always know you’re making history when it’s happening. But it’s a good idea to hang on to all the evidence, just in case. That’s exactly what Merrill W. Chase did when he began collecting instruments invented at Rockefeller throughout the twentieth century. And it’s what led the university to preserve a piece of Flexner Hall when the latest renovations started in 2010.
For the first time since 1958, there’s a new auditorium in town. The CRC auditorium, the last piece of the Collaborative Research Center to be finished, opened January 25, and has been named the Carson Family Auditorium in honor of Russ Carson, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, and his family.
Science on ice. With the power out in the wake of Sandy, NYU lab members struggle to preserve scientific samples with dry ice, hauling it up multiple flights of stairs one bin at a time.
New training for guards, additional shifts at 66th Street, community outreach initiatives and more restrictive access controls are among improvements being made to campus security with an eye toward preventing an “active shooter” incident like those that have caused mass casualties in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado and at Virginia Tech in recent years.
Howard Hang, a chemist who works to develop new tools for the study of host-pathogen interactions, has been promoted to associate professor. The promotion was approved by the university’s Board of Trustees at its recent meeting and is effective as of January 1. Dr. Hang is Richard E. Salomon Family Associate Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Microbial Pathogenesis.
C. David Allis, a $1 million grant from the Starr Foundation’s Sixth Starr Cancer Consortium Grant Competition to investigate epigenetic contributions to the development of pediatric gliomas. Dr. Allis is the Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics.
Annual holiday party is December 20. Celebrate the season with friends and colleagues: this year’s holiday party will showcase the diversity of New York City with food, drinks, music, dancing and entertainment, in Abby Lounge and Dining Room and throughout the CRC, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. For more information, please contact Anne Debassac, Human Resources, at x8379 or email@example.com.
When water from the East River first spilled over its banks and began washing onto the FDR Drive late in the evening of October 29, the several dozen or so administrators and essential personnel monitoring the storm knew it was not likely to stop at the curb. The lowest levels of several campus buildings were vulnerable — and some damage was going to be inevitable.
As many of you know, a major activity during my first year at the university was the development of a strategic plan that will guide the university over the next several years. This plan, which reflects many months of intensive work by the strategic planning committee as well as essential input from faculty, staff, postdocs, students and trustees, was approved by our Board in June.
For those without access, the Rockefeller campus can seem shrouded in mystery. But on a rainy weekend this October, the university opened its doors and let the city in as part of Open House New York weekend. The annual event showcases hundreds of the city’s most architecturally and culturally significant spaces, many not usually open to the public.
Norton D. Zinder, the pioneering geneticist and molecular biologist who helped lay the foundation for the new field of molecular biology in the 1950s and ’60s, was honored with a memorial symposium in November. An annual endowed lecture is also being established in his name. Dr. Zinder, who died this past February after a long illness, was John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor Emeritus at Rockefeller, where he spent his entire research career.
Joan A. Steitz, a pioneer in the field of RNA biology whose discoveries involved patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases, was awarded the 2012 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize from The Rockefeller University last month.
The university’s newest Board member, elected at the June 6 meeting, is David Sze, a partner in the Menlo Park, California offices of venture capital firm Greylock Partners. Mr. Sze, who was introduced to Rockefeller by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, will serve on the Committee on Scientific Affairs and has a particular interest in faculty recruitment and promotion.
The first goal of the Science Outreach Program’s new director is to squash the stereotype that all scientists have Albert Einstein hair and socially awkward personalities. She won’t have to look hard for evidence: she herself is living proof. Jeanne Garbarino, who was named director of the university’s longstanding program to introduce high school students to real-world biological research, has been a postdoc in Jan L. Breslow’s Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism studying intracellular cholesterol transport since 2008. She has very neat hair and is quite personable.
Sometime during the last decade, as he developed technology to explore the role of RNA in neurological disease, Robert B. Darnell realized that the talented, highly educated molecular biologists in his lab were spending more and more of their time doing something that they had never been trained to do: processing computational data. The price of sequencing was falling and the amount of information being generated was staggering. If their work was going to proceed at the pace Dr. Darnell wanted it to, he was going to need a new kind of assistance.
With momentum gaining at the New York Genome Center and several new institutional partnerships beginning on Roosevelt Island and downtown Brooklyn, the academic landscape of New York City is poised for a new era of collaboration. But the idea behind these alliances — that more can be accomplished when institutions share resources than when they work alone — is not new.
Elaine Fuchs, the 2012 Academy Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Biomedical Science from the New York Academy of Medicine, for her innovative and imaginative approaches to research in skin biology, its stem cells and its associated human genetic disorders. The medal is given to eminent scientists in biomedicine, particularly those with a special interest in translating research findings to advance human health. Dr. Fuchs is the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development.
After five years of work, construction on the Collaborative Research Center is drawing to a close, and crews are now in the final stages of finishing work to outfit laboratories and install equipment in Flexner Hall.
Two Rockefeller faculty members have received promotions, both of which were approved by the Board at its June 7 meeting. Shai Shaham, head of the Laboratory of Developmental Genetics, has been awarded tenure and promoted to professor; Sean Brady, head of the Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules, has been promoted to associate professor.
The newest graduate students are here and ready to don their lab coats. There are 27 students — 18 are a part of the Rockefeller Ph.D. program, one student is in the Tri-Institutional Chemical Biology program and eight are M.D.-Ph.D. students.
Frank Pansini has done stone setting work all over New York City, but restoring the marble path in front of Caspary has a special meaning for him — it’s the same path his father put in place 50 years ago. Mr. Pansini, owner of U.S. Stone Setting, Inc., was hired by Turner Construction to restore the marble after it was damaged by construction vehicles used in building the CRC.
In science, seeing the big picture is key. The Rockefeller University Press has taken that literally. Using an online image publishing tool they originally developed in 2008, The Journal of Cell Biology (JCB) has released what it believes is the largest image ever published online — a 281-gigapixel photo of a 1.5 millimeter zebrafish embryo.
The university’s fiscal year 2012 operating budget ended with a $6.8 million deficit, largely the result of reduced endowment spending over the past three years. But the shortfall was expected and has been covered with reserve money from prior year budget surpluses.
Gloria Chang DiGennaro, an assistant director of human resources who worked at the university for 16 years, died August 25 after a long battle with cancer. She was 68 years old.
C. David Allis, a grant from the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation, for research on tumor suppressor activities of ATRX and Daxx mutations through epigenomic profiling and animal models. Dr. Allis, the Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, will collaborate with scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on the $450,000, two-year project.
The 2012 Convocation honored one of the largest graduating classes in Rockefeller history with 40 Ph.Ds awarded, bringing the total number of Rockefeller alumni to 1,110. Celebrations included an evening reception for the graduates and their families, a luncheon, the traditional cap-and-gown procession across campus, a formal ceremony in Caspary Auditorium during which graduates were presented with personal remarks from their mentors and a campus-wide celebration on the Peggy Rockefeller Plaza.
Two pioneers in the field of molecular biology were recipients of the honorary doctor of science degree at the June 14 Convocation ceremony: Rockefeller’s own James E. Darnell Jr., Vincent Astor Professor Emeritus and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, and Yale University’s Joan A. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Daniel Gilmer, a graduate fellow in Vincent A. Fischetti’s lab, has been awarded the 2012 David Rockefeller Fellowship, given each year to an outstanding third-year student for demonstrating exceptional promise in science and leadership.
Ali H. Brivanlou, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Vertebrate Embryology, and Elaine Fuchs, head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, were this year’s recipients of Distinguished Teaching Awards. The awards were established in 2005 to recognize outstanding individual contributions to the university’s educational environment, and include a plaque and a monetary gift.
Moritz Armbruster was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and moved to the desert in Tempe, Arizona, when he was seven years old. Coming from a mathematically inclined family, he moved to New York and studied electrical engineering at the Cooper Union before enrolling for a Ph.D. here.
As the Rockefeller community says goodbye to the graduating class of 2012, a new group of talented students is set to join the campus in the fall. Approximately 700 applications of potential new students were received this year, and after much deliberation by the admissions committee, that list was narrowed down to 87 acceptances. Of those, 19 have enrolled in The David Rockefeller Graduate Program this fall and one has deferred admission until 2013.
Following nearly a year of development, the university’s strategic plan titled “Transforming Biomedicine” has been approved by the Board of Trustees. The plan, which will guide the university’s activities over a nine-year period ending in 2020, was authored by a 13-member strategic planning committee that has met weekly since September. Themes developed by the committee were previewed before several audiences, including the Board, Academic Council, inBenchMarks and at a town hall meeting for the university community held in May, and the plan itself was fully reviewed by the faculty and by the Board this month. As legal trustees of the university, the Board has the final say over its operations.
With the introduction of an ambitious new strategic plan, The Rockefeller University is also embarking on a fundraising initiative, to be called the Campaign for Transforming Biomedicine. The campaign seeks to raise at least $600 million in nine years to facilitate the university’s vision of bridging fundamental science with research on disease.
Ralph M. Steinman, head of the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology, died just three days before winning the Nobel Prize last year. But his legacy at the university will live on: with a gift from the Steinman family and the support of over 120 donors including many of his colleagues and lab alumni, the university has established the Cohn-Steinman Professorship at Rockefeller.
It’s not just biologists who are studying infection at Rockefeller. Computer security experts based in the IT Pavilion have been kept busy in recent months managing outbreaks of viruses and other malware on campus computers.
Members of the Rockefeller faculty and staff were recognized for their service to the university with two recent events. The Employee Recognition Cocktail Reception in February honored employees who had worked at the university for 20 and 25 years. Fifty-nine employees celebrated 20 years of service and 29 celebrated 30 years.
The New York Genome Center (NYGC), the nonprofit institution set to become one of the largest bioinformatics and genomics facilities in North America, is launching its pilot lab operations at The Rockefeller University while a search is conducted for a permanent facility.
The university Board of Trustees elected Thomas P. Maniatis as its newest member at its spring meeting on March 14, bringing the total number of trustees to 43.
Jesse H. Ausubel, the 2012 National Ocean Champion Award, presented by the Urban Coast Institute of Monmouth University in New Jersey, for his contributions to marine science and management. Mr. Ausubel joins a distinguished group of awardees, including Jean-Michel Cousteau, who won in 2011. He is the director and senior research associate of the Program for the Human Environment.