New director for Institute for Biophysical Dynamics

August 5, 2009

Tobin R. Sosnick

Tobin R. Sosnick has been appointed Director of the University of Chicago's Biological Sciences Division and Physical Sciences Division Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, an interdisciplinary research center that works at the interface between biology and the physical sciences.

"The boundary separating scientific research in the biological and physical sciences has essentially vanished in recent years, and I think that Tobin Sosnick's scientific background and his approach to research and teaching are an outstanding illustration of this," said Robert Fefferman, Dean of the Physical Sciences Division and Max Mason Distinguished Service Professor in the Math Department.

"Dr. Sosnick will be a great leader of the Institute," added James Madara, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine.

Sosnick is Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Institute of Biophysical Dynamics, and a senior fellow in the Computation Institute at Chicago. His research focuses on synergistic studies of protein and RNA folding and design. His research involves experiment and computation, and is based on the premise that rigorous and innovative studies of basic processes have broad implications in many areas of biological research.

Sosnick has long been a strong and innovative advocate of interdisciplinary studies and collaboration. He obtained his PhD in 1989 from Harvard University in applied physics, having studied the low-temperature properties of helium. He joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1996 and was a founding member of the Institute in 1998. Today, he is Chair of the new Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences that offers a joint PhD degree from both the Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences Divisions. The program brings together students and faculty from biology, physics, chemistry, medicine, engineering, computer sciences and other fields.

"Scientific queries have been growing increasingly complex and require that biologists, physicists, chemists and computer scientists team up to find answers," Sosnick said.

The University of Chicago created the Institute to meet these challenges with a new approach to scientific research. It brings together experimentalists, theoreticians, and computational scientists to forge a culture of open exchange of ideas and collaboration across disciplines and among laboratories. In addition, the Institute has established training programs to involve undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students in this new cross-disciplinary approach to science.

"I'm excited to take on this new role as director," Sosnick said. "In addition to advancing our Graduate Program, the Institute should increase its impact on the interdisciplinary research activities of it members and other faculty across campus by leading the development of Center-type grants [program projects or grants with multiple principal investigators],in areas related to our strengths and research interests in such fields as imaging and cell biology.

"The Institute's role is to promote interdisciplinary research and training--not just within the Institute but across both the Biological Sciences Division and Physical Sciences Divisions," he added.

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