Leading cell biologist to head department

James Rothman
James Rothman

James E. Rothman, Ph.D. ’71, one of the world’s leading cell biologists, has been named chair of the Department of Cell Biology and the Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences. Rothman will also launch the new Center for High-Throughput Cell Biology at Yale’s West Campus, formerly the site of Bayer HealthCare.

Rothman came to Yale from 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. Under Rothman’s leadership Yale’s Department of Cell Biology will be significantly expanded and will be co-located at the West Campus along with its present location at the main campus of the School of Medicine.

At the Yale Center for High-Throughput Cell Biology, Rothman will lead multidisciplinary teams of scientists to develop tools and techniques to rapidly decipher the cellular functions of the 25,000 known protein-coding genes in the human genome, providing fresh insights into disease and identifying new molecular targets for therapy. For more than two decades, Rothman has performed seminal research on membrane trafficking.

Rothman graduated summa cum laude from Yale College in 1971 with a degree in physics. His research interests were inspired by cell biologist and Nobel laureate George E. Palade, M.D., who founded Yale’s Department of Cell Biology.

Rothman earned a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from Harvard Medical School in 1976. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Harvey F. Lodish, Ph.D., a preeminent biochemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1978, Rothman moved to the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford School of Medicine as an assistant professor. He continued his research at Princeton University from 1988 until 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.

Rothman succeeds cell biologist and immunologist Ira S. Mellman, Ph.D., who was chair and Sterling Professor of Cell Biology at the School of Medicine until 2007, when he joined the biotechnology company Genentech as vice president for oncology research. James D. Jamieson, M.D., professor of cell biology and director of the medical school’s M.D./Ph.D. program, served as interim chair of the department.

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James Rothman

Sterling Professor of Cell Biology and Professor of Chemistry