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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s arrival at Rockefeller means the addition of not one, but two active neuroscience research programs to campus. This summer, Mary Hynes — Dr. Tessier-Lavigne’s wife and a well regarded neuroscientist in her own right — will relocate from Stanford. As research associate professor, she will investigate the development of the key cells targeted by Parkinson’s disease: dopaminergic neurons.
Understanding how fruit flies decide when to veer right and when to veer left is important work, not because it will help protect overripe bananas, but because it could lead to insights into how other organisms, including humans, make complex behavioral decisions.
Luciano Marraffini, a microbiologist, is interested in how bacterial pathogens modulate the transfer of foreign DNA into their genomes. He joined the university on July 1 as assistant professor and head of the Laboratory of Bacteriology.
Daniel Kronauer, who will join Rockefeller in July 2011 as head of the Laboratory of Insect Social Evolution, is interested in understanding how evolution operates at different levels of organization in the rich context of insect societies, from the gene to the individual and society as a whole.
The skin may be our first line of defense against infection, but its job is easy compared to our intestines. There the body must cope with a constant stream of foreign antigens from our food as well as a flourishing ecosystem of bacteria, viruses and parasites. It must not only fight off the harmful ones, but correctly tolerate a wide variety of those that are helpful.
As the fifth year of the university’s open faculty search enters its final round, applicants are up by 60 percent compared to fall 2008, and members of the search committee say the pool is stronger and more diverse than it has been in the past.
by THANIA BENIOS
Agata Smogorzewska, a physician-scientist whose research focuses on DNA repair and on the molecular basis of Fanconi anemia, a genomic instability syndrome that leads to leukemia and other forms of cancer, is Rockefeller University’s newest faculty recruit. The 2002 Rockefeller alumna, who studied under Leon Hess Professor Titia de Lange, will join the university in July as assistant professor and head of the Laboratory of Genome Maintenance. More
Winrich Freiwald uses imaging techniques to study visual processing
by ZACH VEILLEUX
With every glance, the human eye collects the equivalent of several hundred megapixels of data and passes it to the brain for processing. Understanding what happens next — how our brains organize this piecemeal information to let us perceive entire objects — is the life’s work of Rockefeller University’s newest faculty member, Winrich Freiwald. A cognitive neuroscientist who uses imaging techniques to study the parts of the brain responsible for visual processing, Dr. Freiwald has been named assistant professor and head of the Laboratory of Neural Systems. He will come to the university next winter following a short sabbatical at the California Institute of Technology. More
by ZACH VEILLEUX
Sohail Tavazoie, a physician-scientist whose research focuses on the molecular basis of cancer metastasis, has been named assistant professor and will join Rockefeller University as head of the Laboratory of Systems Cancer Biology in January 2009.
Dr. Tavazoie, a native of Tehran, Iran, first developed an interest in science research in high school, when he took a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-sponsored summer course on bacterial genetics at the University of Utah. He considered a career in clinical medicine but found himself drawn to the lab even as he trained as a physician. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and his M.D. from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, both in 2003. Following his internship and residency, in internal medicine, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he has been a postdoc since 2006, in the laboratory of Joan Massagué. More
by THANIA BENIOS
In September, pediatrician and immunologist Jean-Laurent Casanova will join the Rockefeller University faculty as professor of medicine and head of the Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases. The appointment of Dr. Casanova, who comes to Rockefeller from Hospital Necker for Sick Children in Paris, was approved by university trustees in June.
Dr. Casanova studies genetic mutations that predispose individuals to specific pathogens, and his findings have both challenged and brought together divergent theories in the field of immunology. With this unified conceptual framework, Dr. Casanova has provided experimental evidence for a new perspective of why some children get sick during the course of infection while others exposed to the same pathogen do not — work that has paved the way for the development of treatments. More