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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Bring your child to work. In celebration of national “Take Your Child to Work Day,” Human Resources is hosting activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 26. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 who are accompanied by an adult are welcome. The registration deadline is Friday, April 13. For information or to register, contact HR at x8300 or email@example.com.
After a series of weekly meetings held throughout the fall and winter, the university’s strategic planning committee, chaired by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, has identified several themes that will likely become central elements of the plan’s first draft. The final plan is to be presented to the Board of Trustees in June.
A new $15 million gift — among the largest donation to the university since the closure of the Campaign for Collaborative Science last June — will help fund research into digestive disorders, including metabolic diseases, cancers and infections.
Three outdoor playgrounds used by the Child and Family Center’s 122 children are slated to be updated and slightly expanded over the coming months.
Norton D. Zinder, a geneticist and microbiologist whose research on the genetics of bacteria and on the properties of bacteriophages — viruses that infect bacteria — provided seminal information on the mechanisms of heredity, died February 3 after a long illness. He was 83.
The university’s Board elected two new trustees at its fall meeting on November 16: Dinakar Singh and Susan Lyne. The board now numbers 42.
Dennis Ryan, 63, a security guard who worked mostly day and evening shifts, died January 29. Born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen, Mr. Ryan had a career in the NYPD, from which he retired as a detective in 1986. He had been with Rockefeller since 2006.
“He had an outgoing personality and loved to spend time with his two grandchildren,” says Jim Rogers, director of Security. “His presence at Rockefeller will be sorely missed.”
Elaine Fuchs, the 2012 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. The prize, which Dr. Fuchs shares with Howard Green of Harvard Medical School, was established in 1996 as a tribute to the pioneering virologist Jonas Salk, and recognizes leaders in the field of developmental biology who offer hope for the prevention and treatments of some of the most serious birth defects and other human diseases. It consists of a $250,000 award and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime. Dr. Fuchs is Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development.
Holiday party is December 8. After a two-year hiatus, the universitywide holiday celebration is back. All are invited to Weiss Café from 3:30 to 5 p.m. for food and beverages.
Ralph Steinman, an immunologist who spent his entire career at Rockefeller and died just days before the Nobel Prize committee announced his name, passed away on September 30 after a four-and-a-half year battle with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Steinman, who discovered dendritic cells with Rockefeller immunologist Zanvil Cohn in 1972, spawned an entire branch of immunology devoted to understanding how the immune system is coordinated and how it learns to recognize infectious microorganisms and tumor cells. His recent work led to the development of an experimental human vaccine for HIV which began clinical testing last year.
Strong fundraising, access to federal stimulus funds and better-than-expected royalty income led the university to close the 2011 fiscal year with a $1.1 million surplus, but the approved 2012 budget is in a deficit position, according to Jim Lapple, vice president for finance.
The Rockefeller University, with 10 of the country’s leading medical and research institutions, has joined the New York Genome Center (NYGC), which will become one of the largest genomic facilities in North America. The consortium establishes an unprecedented, large-scale collaborative venture in genomic medicine.
Although the removal of concealed asbestos caused some delays last spring, the reconstruction of Flexner and Welch Halls is still on schedule, with work on both projects expected to be complete by the end of fall 2012.
Hundreds of pedestrians enter campus via the 66th Street gate each day. So do more than 200 cars, several dozen delivery vehicles and a steady stream of bicycles. It’s a lot of traffic for a ten-foot wide driveway and two narrow sidewalks.
This summer, 189 university employees participated in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), a worldwide walking program in which participants are issued pedometers and record their daily step totals on a dedicated Web portal.
Leslie B. Vosshall, the 2011 Gill Young Investigator Award from the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. The award recognizes exceptional scientists who have emerged as international leaders in cellular, membrane or molecular neuroscience. Dr. Vosshall is Robin Chemers Neustein Professor and head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
This fall will mark the launch of the formal process to develop the university’s next strategic plan, a document that will serve as the blueprint for our activities over the next seven to 10 years. Strategic planning is an essential function for an institution such as Rockefeller, and it will be the focus of much of my efforts over the coming months, so I want to take this opportunity to explain how it will work.
Vanessa Ruta, a Rockefeller alumna who did her doctoral studies in Roderick Mac-Kinnon’s lab, graduating in 2005, has joined the university as assistant professor and will establish the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior. She moved from a postdoc at Columbia University on September 1.