HARRIS3

Welcome to the newly renamed Department of Biochemistry, Cell Biology & Genomics at Boston University School of Medicine. Formerly the Department of Biochemistry, we have adopted a new name in recognition of the significantly expanded scope of our research portfolio.

This is an exciting place to be! We are a diverse group of faculty working on fundamental molecular, cellular, and genetic processes, and how these are altered in human disease. Our department is ranked among the top Biochemistry departments nationally in terms of NIH funding, and we have a long history of making path-breaking contributions to key areas of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Perhaps our most important resource are the people in our department, including faculty, postdoctoral fellows, students, and staff. We work in an intellectually vibrant and intensely collegial environment characterized by extensive interactions within the department and with other basic science and clinical departments at the medical school. We are committed to the education of our graduate, medical and dental students, and to the principles of diversity and inclusiveness.

I would like to summarize some of the exciting, new developments in our department.

FACULTY RECRUITMENT

One key to maintaining a rich and varied intellectual landscape has been our success in faculty recruitment. Since I began as Chair, we have recruited a total of six, outstanding, new faculty members to join our department, including Drs. Xaralabos (Bob) Varelas, Valentina Perissi, Mikel Garcia-Marcos, Brigitte Ritter, Daniel Cifuentes, and Alla Grishok. Drs. Cifuentes and Grishok have established a new focus on RNA biology in the department, and they have introduced two new model organisms: zebrafish and C. elegans.

INITIATIVE IN GENETICS AND GENOMICS

Our department aims to tap into the intellectually rich and translationally important areas of genetics and genomics by the hiring of several new faculty members during the coming year. In collaboration with the Genome Science Institute (GSI) at BUSM, we are currently recruiting at all levels (Assistant, Associate, Full Professors) in areas including, but not limited to, chromatin structure and function, epigenetics/epigenomics, metabolic regulation, control of gene expression, DNA damage and repair, stem cells and development, and cancer genomics. We anticipate that these individuals will complement the existing strengths of our faculty, and will establish us as a department with broad expertise in molecules, cells, and genes.

LABORATORY SPACE

In 2010, we completed renovation of three floors (approx. 30,000 sq. ft.) of departmental space in the Silvio Conte Medical Research Building (“K Bldg.”). The renovations (approx. $2 million/floor) involved creation of modern, open lab spaces and meeting areas, as well as replacement of major infrastructural elements. In 2015, we renovated an additional floor of departmental space (K4) to accommodate recently hired and future faculty members.

OTHER INITIATIVES

A number of other activities have been launched during the past several years, among which are the following:

  • Creation of several new, department-wide events, including (1) a monthly Student-Postdoc Seminar Series (to provide students and postdoctoral fellows with experience in public speaking); (2) a monthly “Chalk Talk” series (to provide an opportunity for faculty to share scientific ideas and obtain input from colleagues); (3) Departmental Retreats; (4) a biweekly Happy Hour, with rotating faculty hosts.
  • Major endowment gift. The Department of Biochemistry recently received a generous endowment gift from the family of a BUSM alumnus. This donation is being used to support new departmental initiatives with a direct impact on our students and faculty.
  • New equipment and core facilities. Our objective is to provide department members with access to cutting-edge scientific equipment to further their research. We have been able to purchase (1) a Bio-Rad ProteOn XPR36 surface plasmon resonance (SPR) instrument for detecting protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions; (2) a Li-Cor Odyssey Infrared Imaging System for quantitation of Western blots; and (3) an additional real-time PCR system (Applied Biosystems ViiA, with 384-well plate capacity); (4) a state-of-the-art, Zeiss LSM 880 laser scanning confocal microscope with Airyscan.

THE FUTURE

This is an incredibly exciting time in biomedical research, with the advent of major insights into the workings of living organisms, fueled by the application of powerful, new technologies, and the possibility of developing molecular cures for devastating human diseases. Please join us on our journey of scientific discovery in the Department of Biochemistry, Cell Biology & Genomics at Boston University School of Medicine!

David A. Harris, MD, PhD
Chair of Biochemistry, Cell Biology & Genomics
August, 2016