Feb. 20, 1997
Vol. 16, No. 11

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    BSD, PSD faculties vote to create joint research institute

    s The faculties of the Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences divisions have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new joint research institute. The proposal for the new research institute now moves to the Committee of the Council, the Council of the Senate and the Board of Trustees for final approval.

    "This is a major new step for both divisions," said Glenn Steele, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division.

    David Oxtoby, Dean of the Physical Sciences Division, agreed. "We really want to move ahead in the field and get out in front by anticipating new areas of research.

    "There is a convergence of biological and physical research in areas such as structural biology and neurobiology, and biochemistry in general, where advanced techniques and concepts from the physical sciences apply to biological sciences," Oxtoby said. "We are at the point now where physical techniques are able to probe biological systems on relevant time scales. For example, using the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne we can actually look at protein molecules moving in real time. This allows us to ask all sorts of questions that connect the domains of the physical and biological systems."

    Steele added, "Equally intriguing are the potential uses of biological systems, such as cell division and genetic control, in helping us reformulate some of our basic physical underpinnings."

    The proposed interdivisional research institute will be composed of approximately 20 to 25 faculty members, about half of which are expected to be new appointments, Oxtoby said. Initial areas of focus being explored include protein folding and motion, neurochemistry and neurobiology, neural networks, photosynthesis and the ongoing human genome project.

    "We want really outstanding people," said Oxtoby, "We'll start with the best people, and fields will develop from that."

    Connections with Argonne National Laboratory and with outside companies will be essential, Steele said. "Already we're getting a lot of interest from Argonne and others who think this is an excellent concept."

    The proposal for the interdivisional research institute arose out of a joint PSD-BSD committee that reviewed specific areas of collaboration between the two divisions. The committee was co-chaired by Keith Moffat, Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Graham Fleming, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry.