Weill Institute passes two-year milestone
Cornell’s Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology is on track to becoming fully operational by 2013, says Director Scott Emr.
The institute, which opened its labs and offices in 2008 in Weill Hall, Cornell’s state-of-the-art research building, is part of Cornell’s New Life Sciences Initiative to drive revolutionary advances in the life sciences by integrating biology with the physical sciences, social sciences, chemistry, engineering and computer science. The institute aims to place Cornell at the forefront of cell biology research with scientists who seek to answer basic questions on the structure, function and dynamics of living cells.
“Research collaborations between the Weill Institute and several academic departments together with campuswide symposia and meetings sponsored by the institute are energizing life sciences at Cornell,” said Emr. The institute is becoming both a physical and intellectual hub for interdisciplinary research in the life sciences, Emr added.
The institute currently has seven faculty members and will hire five to six more in the next three years, right in line with hiring goals set out when the institute started, Emr said.
On Aug. 27, the search began for three new faculty members, who will hold dual appointments with the Weill Institute and a basic science department where they will also teach and carry out departmental functions. With start dates scheduled for fall 2011, these positions include an assistant or associate professor in biomedical engineering; an assistant or associate professor in chemistry and chemical biology; and an assistant professor in plant biology.
Also, the Weill Institute’s five new faculty (Chris Fromme, Fenghua Hu, Yuxin Mao, Marcus Smolka and Haiyuan Yu) have each already published — or are close to submitting — high-profile papers in prominent journals after completing only two years (or less) of service. With the demands of setting up a new lab, recruiting udents and starting projects, Emr believes his young staff is ahead of schedule.
“In the grand scheme of things, they are about a year ahead of the curve for the average new hire,” Emr said. “Normally people aren’t publishing key articles until they’ve been in a position for three to four years.”
The institute also boasts three postdoctoral Fleming fellows appointed in life science departments — Francisco Bastos de Oliveira (2010), Duane Hoch (2009) and Jason MacGurn (2008) — who each have received three years of salary and research support.
The Fleming fellowship program, sponsored by Sam and Nancy Fleming, “not only helps to ensure the future success of these young scientists, but also enriches the research environment here at Cornell, which ultimately should enhance Cornell’s ranking among the top research universities of the world,” Emr said.
The faculty is rounded out by Weill Institute Associate Director Anthony Bretscher, professor of molecular biology and genetics.