James Rothman is Appointed the Fergus F. Wallace Professor
James E. Rothman, the newly designated Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, is an internationally renowned expert on membrane trafficking, the means by which proteins and other materials are transported within and between cells.
Rothman, who graduated from Yale College in 1971, recently joined the faculty as chair of the Yale School of Medicine's Department of Cell Biology. He is also launching the Center for High-Throughput Cell Biology at the University's West Campus.
Rothman formerly taught at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he was a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, the Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical Biology and director of the Columbia Genome Center.
For his decades of seminal research on the transport of molecules between intracellular compartments and across cell membranes, Rodman has received numerous honors, including Columbia's Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize and the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research - two prizes that are sometimes referred to as "pre-Nobels" because so many recipients of these awards have gone on to become Nobel laureates. Much of his research was done using a "cell-free" approach, in which the cell biologist isolated intracellular components crucial to molecular transport in a laboratory dish, thereby sidestepping the complexity of working with complete cells.
Rothman earned his Yale degree in physics, and cites Dr. George E. Palade, a Nobel Prize-winning cell biologist who founded Yale's Department of Cell Biology, as one of his early inspirations.
After graduating from Yale, Rothman earned his Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Harvard Medical School. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Harvey F. Lodish, a noted biochemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1978, he became an assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Rothman continued his research at Princeton University 1988-1991, when he became the founding chair of the Department of Cellular Biochemistry and Biophysics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and vice chair of the Sloan-Kettering Institute.
In 1993, Rothman discovered a complex of vesicle membrane proteins that he implicated in membrane fusion. Based on this discovery, he formulated the "Snare hypothesis," which has become highly influential in the study of membrane trafficking.
He has been a chief science adviser to GE Healthcare and has served on the editorial boards of the journals Science and Cell. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science and a foreign associate of the European Molecular Biology Association.
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This article was submitted by Liz Pantani on October 8, 2012.