Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, 1962
The medical school's Department of Microbiology was first established in 1962, although prior to that time microbiology courses had been offered through the pathology department. The creation of the department was a result of Dean Joseph Hayman's efforts to strengthen the basic science departments. Dr. James T. Park, a well-known microbial biochemist, was recruited to become the first department chair. Dr. Park went on to build a strong department and recruited a number of faculty members, including Drs. Moselio Schaechter, H. Vasken Aposhian, Edward Goldberg, Andrew Wright, and Abraham L. Sonnenshein - each of whom possessed an outstanding background and productive record.
In 1968 the name of the department was changed from "microbiology" to "molecular biology and microbiology." That year Dr. Victor Najjar was recruited to direct an independent section on protein chemistry and to hold the first American Cancer Society (Massachusetts division) Chair in Molecular Biology at Tufts. When Dr. Najjar achieved emeritus status he was succeeded by Dr. John Coffin. That year Dr. Ralph Isberg, a Harvard Medical School graduate and a subsequent National Science Foundation/Presidential Young Investigator, joined the faculty. He has since become an assistant investigator at Tufts for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
When Dr. Park stepped down in 1970 in order to spend more time on his research, Dr. Moselio Schaechter, who holds a Ph. D. in microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania, was named professor and chair; he has continued to lead the department for the past twenty-three years. Dr. Schaechter has been named a Distinguished Professor at Tufts in recognition of his many accomplishments. He has also served as president of the American Society of Microbiology and of the Association of Medical School Microbiology Chairs.
The Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology has excelled in its mission to provide students with quality instruction. Its graduate program, which was launched in 1965, has produced sixty-four Ph. D.'s and thirty-six predoctoral graduates. These graduates have gone on to hold training positions in the world's finest research institutions and have been unusually successful in establishing their own research groups.
The department's faculty are well-known for their work and have been asked to present countless lectures and seminars all over the world. All of its members serve on editorial review boards for prestigious journals; many hold memberships in distinguished national committees and NIH study sections. Each has an extensive list of publications.
Faculty have made important discoveries concerning the regulation of gene expression; cell and chromosome division in bacteria; bacterial differentiation; the mode of action of antibiotics; the dispersal of bacteria in natural environments; the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis; bacteriophage genetics and replication; retrovirus replication and evolution; and gene expression in higher cells.
Source: COE, 134-36.