In a move Yale Provost Alison Richard described as a “coup” for Yale’s Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology department, Tom Pollard, the dean of Johns Hopkins medical school and the former presdient of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said yesterday that he will join the Yale faculty next fall.
Pollard, the recipient of several national teaching and research awards, said he is coming to Yale because he wants an opportunity to teach undergraduates after more than 30 years of research experience on the faculties of Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins and the La Jolla, Calif.,-based Salk Institute.
“I am going to have an opportunity to teach Yale undergraduates and medical school students — some of the brightest in the country,” said the 1968 Harvard Medical School graduate, who just completed eight years of work on a new cell biology textbook. “I’m excited because I’ll be able to use the new book, and I’m looking forward to doing some creative things with other members of the department.”
MCDB department chair Michael Snyder said Pollard, who accepted the position on March 27, is one of the most dynamic people in the field of biology.
“He’s going to bring an ‘x factor’ to the department,” Snyder said. “He’s an amazing leader, and his knowledge both within and outside of his research area is incredible. He’s one of the leading figures in cell biology and the biological sciences, period.”
Although Pollard has spent most of his teaching time in medical schools, he said he will teach at least one undergraduate cell biology course. Snyder said Yale had been courting Pollard for about 10 months before he accepted the offer last month.
“This is certainly one of biggest coups in biology that I’ve seen in my 15 years here,” Snyder said.
During his time at Johns Hopkins, Pollard spent two years in the early 1990s restructuring the medical school’s core curriculum — in addition to fulfilling his research responsibilities. After spending most of his research career in the same general field — investigating the molecular mechanisms that make cells move — Pollard said he and his team made several key breakthroughs in the last five years.
“Coming to Yale has been perfectly timed with my research,” he said. “We’ve made some important discoveries about how white blood cells move, and I’m coming to a place where I can continue that, as well as teach.”
Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said Pollard’s appointment is one of the best in the department in several years.
“He’s a leader in national science and he is an extraordinary human being,” she said. “He’s an absolutely stellar cell biologist.”
Pollard said he has already purchased a house on the Connecticut shore, where he will live with his wife beginning next year.