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. Mel served as chair until 1974. The Department continued to grow under the chairmanship of Marty Freundlich, Vince Cirillo, Bernie Dudock, and then Masayori Inouye. Marty Freunclich then became acting chair in 1986.
The department underwent a major reorganization and expansion when Dr. William 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.
In 2009, Robert Haltiwanger became Chair following William Lennarz’ retirement. Under Dr. Haltiwanger, the Department began a third wave of growth. Since 2010, the Department has hired nine new faculty. These new faculty have helped create strengths in structural biology and developmental biology and introduced new areas of research to the Department, including systems biology. In 2015, Dr. Haltiwanger stepped down as Chair and was replaced by Aaron Neiman.