When Pietro De Camilli, M.D., returned to Italy in 1981 after three years as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor at the School of Medicine, chairing a department at Yale was the furthest thing from his mind. But events brought him back to New Haven in 1987, and last Nov. 1, after another decade on the faculty, he assumed the leadership of the Department of Cell Biology for a two-year term. Since his postdoctoral days in the late 1970s, he has focused his research on synapses, the junctions which transmit information between neurons in the brain. "These studies have a direct impact in the fields of neurological and psychiatric diseases, but also have general relevance in cell biology," says Dr. De Camilli, who studied medicine and endocrinology at the universities of Milan and Pavia. Dr. De Camilli is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and serves on the boards of a half-dozen journals including the Journal of Neuroscience. The department has 11 primary investigators and 43 graduate students.