Celebrated biology professor Thomas Pollard will assume the chairmanship of Yale’s growing Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department, University President Richard Levin announced in a letter department faculty received Friday.

When Pollard was recruited to Yale in 2001, professors and administrators hailed his appointment as a “major coup” for the department. A former administrator at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Pollard, 61, is credited with bringing national prestige to Yale’s science departments.

Pollard will replace current MCDB chairman Michael Snyder, whose term will end this summer. Snyder said the department is the strongest it has been in two decades and said he hopes Pollard’s leadership will further enhance science education at Yale.

“Our hope is that we will continue to flourish,” Snyder said. “We were very fortunate to recruit him three years ago, and he’s been a wonderful addition to the department. He’s been a real winner wherever he’s been.”

Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey said Pollard’s administrative, teaching and research experience at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the La Jolla, Calif.-based Salk Institute will help Yale’s biology departments attract more leading scientists to its faculty.

“Pollard is a world-famous biologist himself,” Salovey said. “We think he’ll be a wonderful chair for the department. It’s a real opportunity for the moment for MCDB.”

Pollard is one of 19 professors currently serving on the University Budget Committee and also directs various Yale science programs.

“I think he’s seemed to settle in very well and he’s already been a major force in the University,” Snyder said. “I think he’ll command a great respect from others around the University.”

Before arriving at Yale, Pollard spent most of his time teaching at medical schools and research institutions, but has focused on teaching undergraduates and operating his laboratory on Science Hill. Pollard investigates the molecular mechanisms that make cells move. He published a cell biology textbook in 2002, which he uses in his introductory cell biology lecture course.

Joanna Mattis ’06 who is enrolled in Pollard’s course, said Pollard has a “subdued” teaching style.

“[The course] got pretty bad reviews from last year, so at the beginning of this year [Pollard] addressed issues that people brought up in the course evaluations,” Mattis said. “It’s a lot better this year. He totally revamped the structure of the course.”

Pollard, who could not be reached for comment this weekend, was credited with restructuring the medical school curriculum at Johns Hopkins in the early 1990s and founded the school’s graduate program in molecular and cellular medicine.

Yale courted Pollard for 10 months before hiring him in April 2001. Mattis said Pollard’s appointment to the MCDB chairmanship signals the University’s burgeoning commitment to science education.

“Yale has a reputation for having such excellent English and History [Departments],” Mattis said. “I think that [Pollard’s appointment] shows that Yale isn’t that one-sided, and that we do have a really strong science faculty and really strong science departments.”

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