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New appointments at Watson School of Biological Sciences mark second generation of leadership

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — After achieving its goal of bestowing a Ph.D. degree in biology in an unprecedented four years, the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will usher in the next phase in the School’s history on July 1, 2004. On that date, Dr. Lilian Gann will assume the position of Dean and Dr. William Tansey will be appointed Director of Graduate Studies and Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Gann joined the Laboratory in March 1999 as Assistant Dean of the Watson School and was promoted to Associate Dean in January 2002. She received her Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1988, for her studies on DNA-protein interactions in transcriptional control elements of DNA tumor viruses, and her MBA from the University of Westminster, London, in 1996.

“Since her arrival at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Dr. Gann has played a crucial role in the development of the School’s innovative Ph.D. program, while also enhancing the educational and training environment of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for students and postdoctoral fellows generally,” said Dr. Bruce Stillman, President and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “Her unique background in science, education and academic administration make her an obvious choice to develop and oversee the programs of the Watson School.”

In 1992, Dr. Tansey joined the Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. He was named Assistant Professor in 1997 and promoted to Associate Professor in 2001. In 2002, he became Associate Director of the Undergraduate Research Program, a 10-week summer program for undergraduates that operates under the auspices of the Watson School. He will remain a member of the School’s Executive Committee as well as chair of the Curriculum Development and Integration Committee, having already deeply affected the Watson School program by providing many novel components to the School’s curriculum, including a highly successful Academic Mentoring Program and a core course on Scientific Exposition and Ethics. Dr. Tansey received his B.S. and his Ph.D. from the University of Sydney.

“Dr. Tansey has played a major role in the development of the academic programs in the School since its inception while maintaining an outstanding research program. I am most pleased that he will continue to nurture the academic excellence of the School,” Dr. Stillman added.

In his research, Dr. Tansey is seeking to understand the fundamental mechanisms that control transcription factor activity and cell proliferation. The growth and proliferation of cells is controlled by a network of strictly regulated interactions among many different classes of proteins including transcription factors. Disruption of any of these regulated interactions may lead to cancer. One aspect of Dr. Tansey’s work focuses on how and why a potent transcription factor called Myc is destroyed, and how the loss of Myc protein destruction leads to cancer.

Both appointments follow the resignation of Dr. Winship Herr, the Founding Dean of the Watson School, who is stepping down to concentrate on his research program. In 1995, Dr. Herr spearheaded the 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 graduate program 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 fiveor more years to obtain a degree, the Watson School is structured to grant the Ph.D. degree after only four years of intensive study. 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.

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