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Message from the Chair

Greetings from the Biology Department at WashU! My name is Ram Dixit and I started as the new chair of the department in July. I am excited and honored to lead the department that has been my home since 2008.

My own research focuses on the dynamic cytoskeletal system that allows cells to  adapt to changing conditions and perform vital functions. Likewise, the department is a dynamic entity as we seek to grow, forge

new connections, and have a larger impact on the community both within and outside WashU.

Our old teaching labs will relocate to a custom renovated space in Jolley Hall this summer, freeing up substantial room in Rebstock and Busch Halls to be converted into modern research labs. With upcoming retirements and new faculty lines, we are looking at 10-12 new faculty hires over the next 5 years. This growth will bring in new research areas and strengthen existing ones so that we remain at the forefront of biological research and continue to educate and train the next generation of scientific leaders.

Arts & Sciences had a record-breaking year for grant funding, with Biology leading the way. This includes Dr. Rachel Penczykowski, who won 3 major research grants including the prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. Dr.Himadri Pakrasi will also lead one of 29 new projects under the Department of Energy’s Energy Earthshots Initiatives. Congratulations to all our amazing faculty on their outstanding grant success.

In other news, Mike Dyer retired as Greenhouse Supervisor after 40 years of dedicated service. Mike was a consummate plant whisperer who could grow even the most obstinate plants. He is succeeded by the equally talented Benjamin Wolf, who got his PhD from Dr. Bob Blankenship in the Biology Department in 2019. I am also saddened to announce that after 43 years, Dr. Ian Duncan will retire on December 31, 2023. Beyond his own research, Dr. Duncan had a large impact on the biology curriculum, teaching Introductory Genetics, Developmental Biology, and Human Genetics.

And finally, a warm welcome to Dr. Ben Mansfeld who joined the biology faculty last summer and to Dr. Tony Smith who joined as teaching faculty and undergraduate research coordinator. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Kevin Cox from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Dr. Andi Kautt from Harvard University next summer.

Wishing everyone a relaxing and joyful Holiday Season!

Ram Dixit

Awards & Notables

Ken Olsen

Olsen installed as George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor of Biology

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Petra Levin

Levin installed as George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor of Biology

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