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History of the Department

In 1967, Stony Brook University recruited Melvin Simpson, an American Cancer Society Professor from Dartmouth University to establish a new Division of Biochemistry within the Department of Biology. Inside a year, a fully-fledged Department of Biochemistry was born with Mel serving as the inaugural Chair and overseeing the recruitment of many new faculty members to establish Stony Brook’s presence in this rapidly expanding field. After many years service, Mel was replaced as Chair in 1981 by one of his recruits, Masayori Inouye, who continued this mission for the next five years before handing over to Marty Freudlich as acting Chair in 1986. 

The department underwent a major reorganization and expansion when Bill Lennarz, then recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, was recruited by Marty to be Chair in 1989. Bill sought to reinvigorate the department through the appointment of over twelve outstanding new faculty, and broadened the mission to include Cell Biology, the study of cellular and subcellular structure and function. Almost all of the scientists recruited by Bill remain as senior faculty members and have helped cement the department’s reputation as a center of excellence in teaching and research science. 

Bill stepped down as Chair in 2007 to be replaced by Bob Haltiwanger, Professor of Biochemistry and Editor-in-Chief of Glycobiology. Once more, a new Chair has driven the hiring of new faculty, with seven assistant professors arriving since 2011 to add cutting-edge expertise in in areas as diverse as embryonic development, gene regulation, and bio-molecular imaging. Today, the department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology continues to grow, delivering innovative education programs to thousands of students and producing world-class research at the interface of basic science and medicine.

Biochemistry History


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