The University of Alabama at Birmingham today announced that the Department of Cell Biology and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics will become one, formalizing an interdisciplinary collaboration that has been in place for years. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the decision to create the “Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology” on Feb. 2, 2012.
The combined effort will be led by the two chairs of the former departments with Tika Benveniste, Ph.D., serving as chair and Kevin Kirk, Ph.D., as vice chair.
“The decision to merge the two departments reflects the collaborative spirit of UAB’s scientific community, the changing nature of modern research and the school’s strategic plan, which calls for the rapid translation of laboratory discoveries into new therapies and better patient care,” said Ray L. Watts, M.D., UAB senior vice president and dean of the School of Medicine. “The basic sciences — cell biology, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, toxicology and neurobiology — are where breakthroughs in cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders often begin. The new department will leverage existing strengths of two faculties to help us move even faster toward the development of new treatments.”
As natural partners in the integrated study of biological systems, the two departments have longstanding, shared expertise in areas ranging from cancer biology to neurodegenerative disease to inflammation to developmental biology. Having a larger, more diverse faculty will yield closer interactions, more joint research projects and more interdisciplinary grants.
Faculty development accelerates in a larger pool of collaborators and technologies, which in turn enriches the experience of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in newly founded scientific fields. The combined department will feature 35 faculty members and represent $9.5 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, placing it among the top 20 nationally.
“The shared research interests and physical proximity of the combined faculty will enhance the teaching and research efforts of the new department,” said Kirk.
“We are excited about the possibilities inherent in this change and are committed to fortifying the research programs of our combined faculty and the professional activities of our combined staff,” said Benveniste. “We look forward to working with each faculty member in the coming months as we begin the transition.”