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Founding Dean of Watson School of Biological Sciences resigns to pursue research

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Dr. Winship Herr will step down as Dean of the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on July 1, 2004—having dedicated the better part of a decade to the establishment of the successful, innovative Ph.D. program—to concentrate on his research.

Beginning in 1995, Dr. Herr spearheaded an effort that resulted, in September 1998, in the Laboratory’s accreditation as a Ph.D. degree-granting institution by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, on behalf of the State Education Department. The Watson School of Biological Sciences, of which Dr. Herr served as Founding Dean, guides the development of a small number of outstanding Ph.D. candidates into creative and independent scientists. Unlike traditional Ph.D. programs, in which candidates often spend five or more years to obtain a degree, the Watson School is structured to grant the Ph.D. degree after only four years of intensive study.

The first Ph.D. degrees in biology from the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory were bestowed on April 25, 2004, having surpassed its unprecedented goal with three of the six students graduating in less than four years.

“During the last five years, we have seen the School grow and become one of the most innovative programs in the country, attracting outstanding students. Dr. Herr has nurtured and shaped the Watson School in its first formative years, culminating in the first Commencement Convocation this spring,” Dr. Bruce Stillman, President and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, said. “He has helped shape the future of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in a unique way and we are grateful for his service to our students and faculty.”

Throughout this time, Dr. Herr continued to lead a research program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory using the herpes simplex virus to probe transcriptional regulation in human cells to better understand cellular regulation and proliferation in relation to human diseases, including cancer.

“The creation of the Watson School has been a tremendous experience,” Dr. Herr said. “It is the result of everyone’s efforts at the Laboratory—from the dedicated administration to the innovative faculty to the pioneering students themselves.”

Dr. Herr received his A.B. in biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Harvard University. He joined the Laboratory in 1983 as a postdoctoral fellow and was promoted to Staff Investigator in 1984, Senior Staff Investigator in 1985 and Senior Scientist in 1988. He served the Laboratory from 1994-2002 as Assistant Director at a time of great expansion of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s research program. In addition, he was the Deputy Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Cancer Center from 1994-2000. Dr. Herr was a member of the editorial board of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press’ Genes and Development from 1988-2002.

Dr. Lilian Gann, Associate Dean of the Watson School of Biological Sciences, will replace Dr. Herr as Dean. She will be joined by Dr. William Tansey who has been appointed Director of Graduate Studies and the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Biological Sciences.

Written by: Public Affairs | | 516-367-8455

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About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit