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Alan D. Grossman, the Praecis Professor of Biology, has been named the new head of the Department of Biology, effective Aug. 1. He served as associate department head from 2012 until June, when he became the department’s interim head after Tania Baker, the E.C. Whitehead Professor of Biology, stepped down from the position.
“Alan Grossman is an outstanding biologist who is deeply committed to the research and educational missions of the biology department,” says Michael Sipser, dean of the School of Science and the Barton L. Weller Professor of Mathematics. “I am committed to working with him to sustain and enhance MIT’s position as an extraordinary place to do biology.”
Grossman has significant experience in service, research, education, and outreach. In addition to serving as associate department head, he served for many years on the graduate committees for biology, computational and systems biology, and microbiology. He was director or co-director of the biology graduate program for seven years.
Grossman was instrumental in the establishment of the graduate program in microbiology in 2008, and served as its director until 2012. The program is an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary endeavor, with more than 50 participating faculty members from several departments in the School of Science and School of Engineering. This program integrates educational resources across participating departments, builds connections among faculty with shared interests, and creates an educational and research community for training students in the study of microbial systems. Grossman also served as a member of the Committee on Curriculum and most recently on the Office of Minority Education’s Faculty Advisory Committee.
“I have benefited tremendously from the support and encouragement from people in all parts of the department, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve this outstanding community,” Grossman says. “I look forward to working closely with my colleagues and continuing the tradition of recruiting and mentoring excellent young faculty, supporting educational and outreach efforts, and building strong and beneficial relationships with other departments.”
Grossman’s research combines a range of approaches — genetic, molecular, physiological, biochemical, cell-biological, and genomic — to study how bacteria sense internal and external conditions, and control basic cellular processes. His current work seeks to define mechanisms regulating bacterial DNA replication and cellular responses to replication stress. His lab also studies horizontal gene transfer, the primary means by which antibiotic resistance is spread among bacteria.
Grossman received a BA in biochemistry from Brown University in 1979, and a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1984. After a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology at Harvard University, Grossman joined MIT’s Department of Biology in 1988. He received a life-saving heart transplant in 2006. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.