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Professors Steven R. Tannenbaum and Douglas A. Lauffenburger have been named co-directors of the new Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health (BEH), created to coordinate and advance interdisciplinary education and research within the School of Engineering.
The appointments were announced by the outgoing dean of the School of Engineering, Robert A. Brown, in a letter to faculty and staff. "The mission of this new division is to educate leaders and to generate and communicate new knowledge," wrote Dean Brown, who assumed his new duties as provost on August 1.
BEH will have 20 faculty members from key disciplines, including engineering, biology, toxicology and physical/chemical/computer sciences. Initially, the division will administer the undergraduate minor in biomedical engineering and the existing SM and PhDs in toxicology. Plans call for a PhD program in bioengineering to be offered in 1999-2000 and a minor in environmental health shortly thereafter.
BEH research programs will include molecular design of therapeutics and biomaterials; modeling and measurement of bio-molecular, cellular and tissue structure, properties and function; dynamics and physiological systems; cell culture biotechnology and tissue engineering; computational biology; drug, toxin and carcinogen transport, metabolism and mechanisms of action; primary causes of genetic changes; and pathogen transmission, infection and monitoring.
About 100 undergraduates and 30-40 graduate students are expected to enroll per class. The faculty will expand to 30-40 members within 10 years.
Dr. Tannenbaum, the Underwood-Prescott Professor of Toxicology and Chemistry, is the director of the Division of Toxicology, which has been moved from Whitaker College to the School of Engineering. Dr. Lauffenburger is the J.R. Mares Professor of Chemical Engineering and director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering.
Professor Tannenbaum received the SB in food technology from MIT in 1958 and the PhD in 1962. He joined the MIT faculty in 1964 as assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969, full professor in 1974 and professor of toxicology and food chemistry in 1981. He became director of the Division of Toxicology in 1996.
Professor Lauffenburger received the BS from the University of Illinois in 1975 and the PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1979, both in chemical engineering. He was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois before coming to MIT in 1995 as the J.R. Mares Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He was the director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering, the precursor to BEH.
"MIT has long played a leading roll in translating biological advances into technological applications, essentially defining the field of biotechnology, profoundly influencing industries as diverse as pharmaceutics, agriculture and synthetic chemistry," Professor Tannenbaum wrote in an article co-authored with Professor Lauffenburger for the September Faculty Newsletter.
"Now, the advent of molecular biology has provided the tools to undertake mechanistic investigations of the behavior of cells and higher organisms. Like chemistry 100 years ago, biology is rapidly moving from a science of characterization and categorization to one of quantitative analysis and mechanistic understanding, and MIT is again poised to play a defining role in how this scientific revolution advances the field of engineering."
Professor Lauffenburger added: "One of our guiding concepts will be to create curricula based on the integration of biology and engineering rather than as separate, though related, fields. Instead of superimposing one on the other for a specific application, we intend to create in BEH the opportunity to study biology and engineering as a coherent whole before selecting applications for the obtained knowledge."
In addition to the co-directors, the BEH faculty includes Professors William M. Deen, C. Forbes Dewey Jr., John M. Essigmann, James G. Fox (director of the Division of Comparative Medicine), Alan J. Grodzinsky (director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering), Neville Hogan, Ian Hunter, Roger D. Kamm, Robert S. Langer, Harvey F. Lodish, Paul T. Matsudaira, William G. Thilly (director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences), Gerald N. Wogan and Ioannis V. Yannas; Associate Professors Peter C. Dedon and Linda G. Griffith; and Assistant Professors Bevin Engelward, Ram Sasisekharan, David Schauer and James L. Sherley. The administrative officer is Rolanda L. Dudley-Cowans. The academic administrator is Debra A. Luchanin.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 16, 1998.