We Adopt Our Current Name

In 1968, the name of the department was changed to Molecular Biology and Microbiology to reflect our emphasis on molecular genetic approaches to microbial physiology as opposed to more traditional approaches.  At that time, molecular biology was still a new science that pertained almost exclusively to bacteria and viruses. Park resigned as Chair in 1970, turning over the governance of the department to Elio Schaechter, but he maintained an active, funded research lab until 2010.  Schaechter’s first two appointments over the next five years increased the faculty to a small, highly cohesive group of seven who interacted well with each other.  (We maintain a spirit of collegiality and governing by consensus even as the department has more than doubled in size since then.) 

Schaechter’s first new appointment was Abraham L (“Linc”) Sonenshein, a graduate of Salvador Luria's lab at MIT and of Pierre Schaeffer's group at the Université de Paris.  Arriving in 1972, Sonenshein established a research group that focused on the regulation of spore formation in Bacillus subtilis.  Three years later, John M Coffin, who trained with Howard Temin in Wisconsin and with the molecular virologist Charles Weissmann in Zurich, arrived to study the molecular genetics of retroviruses. An avid cranberry farmer, Coffin spends many cold nights protecting his plants and their blossoms and fruit from frost damage. The annual cranberry harvest serves as a excuse for an autumn outing and picnic. Coffin now divides his time between research groups at Tufts and at NCI-Frederick where he founded a program to study HIV drug resistance mechanisms and continues to consult with several teams on these issues. Mark Challberg came from The Johns Hopkins University in 1978 to initiate studies on adenovirus replication, but left in 1982 to take a full-time research position at the NIH.

Molecular Microbiology PhD


Our department is the administrative home of the Molecular Microbiology PhD Program of the Sackler School