May 17, 2011

Leadership Searches Moving Forward for Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology and Biochemistry

A nationwide search for new leadership for the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology continues while the search for a new chair for the Department of Biochemistry, announced in last Thursday’s MyVUMC, begins right away.

“These departments are cornerstones of our institutional strength in basic science. We are firmly committed to filling the chairs of both departments with world leaders, and to providing the resources necessary to ensure their ongoing leadership,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

This spring, six outstanding candidates were interviewed and a finalist was identified for the leadership position for the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. However, the finalist had to withdraw from the search process due to personal circumstances.

A new effort is currently under way, led by the chair of this search committee, Roger Cone, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Obesity and Metabolism and chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, to expand the pool of external candidates.

“This search encountered an unfortunate turn of affairs when our finalist declined for personal reasons. However, what we learned is that we can attract extremely high-caliber candidates from around the country for this position. The search will continue until the position has been successfully filled,” Cone said.

Since January 2010, William Tansey, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, has served as interim chair of Cell and Developmental Biology. However, he will step down from this position to once again focus on his research and ongoing collaborations with many members of the Vanderbilt community.

As the search continues for a new chair, Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, will, in addition to her current responsibilities, temporarily serve as the department’s interim chair.

As the prior chair of Cell and Developmental Biology, Wente is well-positioned to support the ongoing activities of faculty across all areas of the department for the length of the search.

“I am assisting in this capacity so that research and training efforts under way throughout the department continue unabated throughout the remainder of the search and transition period as a new chair joins us,” Wente said.

And just announced last week, the Department of Biochemistry is launching its own search for a new chair. Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., the Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research and University Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Chemical Biology, is chair of this search committee.

F. Peter (Fred) Guengerich, Ph.D., has served as interim chair of the department since last July, when longtime chair Michael Waterman, Ph.D., stepped down after 18 years.

“The Department of Biochemistry is one of the nation’s finest, and in an outstanding position to launch the recruitment of a new, permanent chair,” Wente said.