Author Archives: pubaff

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

Sarah Van Driesche

Sarah Van DrieschePresented 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


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

Welch Hall reopens as library and student center | Campus News

Room and board. Welch Hall’s newly restored Great Hall, on the first floor, ready for the March meeting of the Board of Trustees. 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.

Frozen in time: Flexner’s historic lab re-opens with early inventions on display | Campus News

If these walls could talk. The historic lab on the first floor of Flexner features benches, fume hoods (above, right) and other lab equipment from the 1950s. Carrel-Lindbergh perfusion pumps (above, left), invented by a Rockefeller scientist and manufactured in the university’s former glassblowing shop, are among the instruments on display.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.

CRC auditorium is named for Russ Carson | Campus News

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.

New security initiatives focus on “active shooter” threat | Campus News

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 promoted to associate professor | Faculty Promotion

HangHoward 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.


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

No scientific losses from Hurricane Sandy | Campus News

Overflow. Two views of floodwater from Hurricane Sandy: the FDR Drive, near RRB (left) and 62nd Street, near Scholars Residence.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.

Implementing the Strategic Plan | From Marc Tessier-Lavigne

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.

Rockefeller opens its doors to Open House NY | Campus News

Be our guest. Science Outreach Director Jeanne Garbarino gives a tour of the Rockefeller campus for Open House New York, an annual event that showcases notable architecture and culturally-significant spaces throughout the five boroughs.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.

University honors Norton Zinder with symposium and annual lecture | Campus News

Symposium panelists. Rockefeller’s Michael W. Young moderates a panel on Dr. Zinder’s scientific contributions. From left: Dr. Young, Robert E. Webster, from Duke University School of Medicine, June R. Scott, from Emory University School of Medicine, and Marjorie Russel and James E. Darnell Jr., from Rockefeller.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.

Venture capitalist David Sze named to Board | New Trustee

szeThe 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.

New science outreach director aims to show students it’s cool to be nerdy | Campus News

garbarinoThe 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.

Robert Darnell named president of New York Genome Center | Faculty News

Genomic infrastructure. Architectural rendering of the outside of the New York Genome Center’s new facility at 101 Avenue of the Americas (top); Dr. Darnell (bottom).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.