Author Archives: pubaff


Kids welcome. 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 23. Children must be registered by April 17 and must be accompanied by an adult to attend. Space is limited. For more information, call x8300.

Cardiologist Paul Cohen, expert in obesity and related diseases, named to faculty | Faculty Recruitment

More than one in three U.S. adults is obese, a condition that puts them at risk for an alarming array of health problems, from diabetes and heart disease to cancer. But while obesity brings devastating consequences for many, some escape. For a select few, obesity causes little more than sore joints and fatigue, at least for a time.

Child and Family Center to expand by five rooms | Campus News

The Rockefeller University Child and Family Center, long one of the university’s most coveted perks for parents and a model for work-site child care facilities nationwide, will expand by 40 percent this year, with five new classrooms to be constructed on the second floor of the Graduate Students Residence. The expansion, which will double the number of highly desirable infant spots available in the program as well as add new seats for toddlers and preschoolers, is the first increase in the CFC’s size since 2001 and will help shorten a lengthy admissions waitlist that some families remain on for two years or more.

New career director to help students and postdocs navigate options | Appointment

Andrea Morris’s career in biology has had a few curves. After earning a Ph.D. in molecular biology and doing a postdoc, she took a tenure-track faculty job, teaching and running a lab at a small liberal arts college. But she ultimately gave up tenure, and the bench, to work in higher education administration. Now, as the newly hired director of career resources and professional development in Rockefeller’s Dean’s Office, she is charting yet another course, putting her biology Ph.D. to work in ways Rockefeller students and postdocs can appreciate.

Two new Trustees are elected to Board | New Trustees

The university’s Board of Trustees elected two new members in October 2014: Weslie Janeway, a philanthropist with a long-standing interest in genetics, and Michael J. Price, an investment advisor specializing in the telecom and technology industries. With their elections, the university now has 45 voting trustees.

‘Talking Science’ lecture moves to January

The university’s annual holiday lecture for high school students, a tradition dating back to 1960, received a makeover this year. In addition to a new name, “Talking Science,” which debuted in 2013, the lecture was moved to the second Saturday of January, and expanded to include a lunchtime program of scientific demonstrations — highlights included electric fish, visual illusions and fruit fly mating — in the CRC, as well as the customary two-part lecture in Caspary Auditorium.

Milestones | Awards, Personnel News, Promotions


Mary Ellen Conley, the AAI-Steinman Award from the American Association of Immunologists. The award, named for the late Ralph M. Steinman, head of Rockefeller’s Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology, recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the understanding of immune processes underlying human disease pathogenesis, prevention or therapy. The award will be presented May 10 at the association’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Dr. Conley is a member of Jean-Laurent Casanova’s St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases.


Tri-I TDI makes modeling software available. The Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, Inc. (Tri-I TDI) has signed an agreement to provide access to Schrödinger’s materials science, biologics and small‑molecule drug discovery suites to researchers within Tri-I TDI’s member institutions. The software simulation tools, which perform virtual screening, analyze potential compounds for suitability and model chemical systems, are designed to advance early-stage research toward new therapeutics. The contract includes open access to key industry-leading tools of drug discovery as well as training. For more information, visit

Geneticist Joe Gleeson joins faculty as professor | Faculty Recruitment

Joseph Gleeson, a neurogeneticist who uses genetic sequencing to identify the causes of pediatric brain disease across its spectrum, including epilepsy, autism, intellectual disability and structural disorders, has joined Rockefeller as a professor and established the Laboratory of Pediatric Brain Diseases. Dr. Gleeson, formerly a professor at the University of California, San Diego, is one of two mid-career scientists who joined the university this summer (the other, Jue Chen, was featured in the June 13 issue of BenchMarks).

Tenure awarded to Hiro Funabiki | Faculty Promotion

Hironori Funabiki, head of the Laboratory of Chromosome and Cell Biology, was promoted to professor and granted tenure by the university’s Board of Trustees at its June meeting. Dr. Funabiki studies mitosis, the primary type of cell division that underlies all growth, maintenance and reproduction in organisms from plants to fungi.

New cryo-EM suite expands Rockefeller’s capabilities in structural biology | Campus News

Structural biology, in which scientists examine the shapes of specific proteins and protein complexes at a molecular scale, has driven some of biology’s most profound discoveries in the past decade, including insights into neurological signaling, pathogenic processes and DNA transcription. With the acquisition of sophisticated new cryo-electron microscopy tools, the university’s labs will be able to benefit from technology that allows for the visualization of three-dimensional structures of molecules and macromolecular complexes in solution.

Playing doctors: Tri-Institutional Music and Medicine Program features physicians and scientists who also perform music | Campus News

Maybe it’s the fact that they both involve a good amount of discipline, or maybe it’s that each requires a certain flair for creative thought. Whatever the reason, many people find themselves drawn to both music and science, and are often faced with the difficult decision of choosing between two passions. The Music and Medicine program at Weill Cornell Medical College aims to make that choice easy for the students and faculty of Rockefeller, Cornell and Memorial Sloan Kettering — they can have both.

Science communicator named new head of Public Affairs | Appointment

An endless stream of compelling discoveries emerges regularly from Rockefeller’s research community and it is the job of the Office of Communications and Public Affairs to make sure those findings are accessible internally and externally. The new executive director of the office, Franklin Hoke, brings with him a background as a veteran science journalist and communications leader in academic settings, and he plans to bolster the office’s core mission to disseminate scientific news. He joined the university in June.

Antique vacuum pump finds new home in Pennsylvania

Not as iconic as the breakthrough discoveries and famous names, but a vital part of Rockefeller’s history nonetheless — a pump that supplied vacuum pressure to Rockefeller labs for over half a century — is having its moment in the spotlight. One of the last of its kind in Manhattan, the 1952 pump (left) has been donated to the National Museum of Industrial History, a new facility now under construction in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

130 employees honored for longtime service | Anniversaries and Retirements

Several ceremonies were held this year to commemorate years of service to the university by Rockefeller employees. This month, 45 members of the university were celebrated for 10 years of service. And in May, an Employee Recognition Reception was held to honor 29 employees who have worked at Rockefeller for 20 and 25 years, followed by an anniversary dinner honoring 16 retirees and 40 employees with 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 60 years of service. To see more photos from the three events, visit

Professor Emeritus Peter Marler, researcher of songbird learning, dies | Obituaries

Professor Emeritus Peter Robert Marler, whose work in songbird learning established a foundation for understanding how animals communicate, died July 5 at the age of 86 in Winters, California. Dr. Marler joined Rockefeller’s faculty in 1966 and helped establish the Millbrook Field Research Center about 80 miles north of Manhattan, serving as its founding director from 1972 to 1981.

Milestones | Awards, Personnel News, Promotions


C. David Allis, the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The award recognizes Dr. Allis “for the discovery of covalent modifications of histone proteins and their critical roles in the regulation of gene expression and chromatin organization, advancing the understanding of diseases ranging from birth defects to cancer.” The Breakthrough Prize, worth $3 million, was launched in 2013 by a group of Internet and technology entrepreneurs to recognize transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life. Dr. Allis is one of six scientists to receive the life sciences prize this year; the awards were presented at a celebrity-studded gala awards ceremony November 9 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Dr. Allis is Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics.

Convocation 2014 | Special Issue

Convocation 2014The 2014 Convocation awarded 23 Ph.Ds to Rockefeller graduate fellows, bringing the total number of Rockefeller alumni to 1,150. The luncheon preceding the ceremony was held for the first time in the new, grandly restored Great Hall of Welch. Following tradition, faculty mentors joined their students in a procession across the campus, then presented each at a formal ceremony in Caspary Auditorium. Afterward, the campus community turned out for a reception in Weiss Café to celebrate the graduates.

Honorary degrees awarded to Gurdon, Robertson and Yamanaka | Convocation

In addition to 23 students, three seasoned contributors to basic science — two Nobel Prize winners and a philanthropist — received degrees from Rockefeller this year. In a tradition dating back more than five decades, the university awarded honorary doctorate of science degrees to distinguished individuals who have made notable contributions in their fields.

Coming soon, to The David Rockefeller Program

As the graduating class of 2014 moves on to the next stages of life and career, the Rockefeller community welcomes the incoming group of graduate fellows. There were 744 applications received this year, and after careful consideration by the admissions committee, 77 applicants were offered admission to the university.

Structural biologist, focused on cell transport machinery, to join faculty | Faculty Recruitment

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.

Drug discovery fund begins making grants | Campus News

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.

Inaugural ‘Science Saturday’ draws families

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.

Tri-I drug discovery institute soon to announce first projects | Campus News

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.

IT amps up bandwidth, eases genomic data transfers | Campus News

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.

Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande awarded Lewis Thomas Prize | Awards and Honors

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.

Nobel laureate and longtime faculty member Gerald Edelman dies at 84 | Obituary

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.

“River Building” is approved by community board | Campus News

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.

Tim O’Connor named VP and chief of staff | Appointment

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.

New faculty member studies ribosome structure | Faculty Recruitment

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, VP of scientific and facility operations, retires | Retirement

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.

Events celebrate longtime employee service at Rockefeller

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.

New university Board members have backgrounds in medicine and finance | New Trustees

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.

James Simons honored with Life Trusteeship; Pat Rosenwald voted Emeritus Trustee | Trustees

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.

Psychologist and author Kay Redfield Jamison awarded 2012 Lewis Thomas Prize | Awards and Honors

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.

Convocation 2013 | Special Issue

Convocation 2013The 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.

David Rockefeller Fellowship awarded to neuroscientist Jason Pitts

David Rockefeller Fellowship awarded to neuroscientist Jason PittsJason 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.

Coming soon, to The David Rockefeller Graduate Program

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.

Four leaders in science and philanthropy given honorary degrees

Four leaders in science and philanthropy given honorary degreesAt 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.

Marraffini and Tavazoie recognized for excellence in teaching

Marraffini and Tavazoie recognized for excellence in teachingTwo 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.

Fabio Casadio | Convocation

Fabio CasadioPresented 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

Amy Grunbeck | Convocation

Amy GrunbeckPresented by Thomas P. Sakmar
B.S., Dickinson College
Application of Genetically-encoded Photoactivatable Crosslinkers to Map Ligand-binding Sites on G Protein Coupled Receptors

Suchit H. Patel | Convocation

Suchit H. PatelPresented 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