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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Expands Biology Department

September 7, 2004

Rensselaer Expands Biology Department

TROY, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has dramatically expanded its Department of Biology with the appointment of eight new faculty members over the last two years, most of whom are arriving on campus during this term. The new faculty provide expertise fundamental to the new research programs to be carried out at Rensselaer’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, a $100 million research facility opening Sept. 10.

“Rensselaer’s new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies has been a powerful magnet for dynamic teachers and outstanding researchers who, together with the existing faculty in biology and biotechnology, will help to transform interdisciplinary research and create exciting new and innovative methods for teaching biology,” said Rensselaer Provost G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

Skilled in cellular, biochemical, and biophysical approaches to life sciences research, these new faculty will advance biotechnology research at Rensselaer in four core areas: integrative systems biology (understanding the complex interplay among cellular constituents), biocatalysis and metabolic engineering (using nature’s catalysts to synthesize compounds of pharmaceutical and industrial importance), computational biology and bioinformatics (elucidating the function of mammalian and microbial genomes), and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (engineering cell growth to regenerate human tissue).

“Each of the new faculty brings expertise in powerful and flexible research methods that produce rapid results and the potential for biomedically important discoveries,” said Robert Palazzo, chair of the Department of Biology and acting director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. “With this expansion, biology and biotechnology research at Rensselaer is rapidly approaching a critical mass that will be profoundly beneficial for scientific breakthoughs.”

The new faculty are Blanca Barquera, assistant professor in biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology; Andrea Page-McCaw, assistant professor in developmental genetics and molecular biology; Patrick Page-McCaw, assistant professor in developmental genetics and neuroscience; Douglas Swank, assistant professor in comparative physiology, biophysics, and muscle design; Chunyu Wang, assistant professor in protein structure and dynamics and drug discovery; Fern Finger, assistant professor in cell biology and molecular genetics; Joel Morgan, research assistant professor in biophysics and protein dynamics; and Palazzo, whose research focuses on biochemistry and cell and molecular biology.

The Rensselaer Plan calls for significant investments that will transform biotechnology research,” Peterson said. “To achieve that goal, Rensselaer is seeking to hire 10 to 12 additional faculty into endowed positions in the area of biotechnology and related fields.”

Rensselaer’s new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies provides state-of-the-art facilities for research and education focused on the application of engineering and the physical and information sciences to the life sciences.

Contact: Robert Pini
Phone: (518) 276-6050