Nevins takes CGT helm permanently

Joseph Nevins, chair of the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, has been named director of the Center for Genome Technology, a center within the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

  Having already been the CGT's interim director since 1999, when the center was originally created, Nevins, also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and James B. Duke professor of genetics, will assume the directorship of the CGT immediately.

  "We did a full international search for the position," said Hunt Willard, director of the IGSP. "And it became increasingly clear to us that nobody compared to [Nevins]."

  Nevins, who became chair of the department of genetics in 1991 which later merged with the department of microbiology to become the department of molecular genetics and microbiology, also announced that he will be stepping down as chair to draw his attention completely on the development of the CGT.

  "[My involvement with the CGT] has gone from a portion of what I used to do to a significant part of what I do," Nevins said. "I came to recognize that I can't at the same time be directing [the CGT] and managing the further development of the department [of molecular genetics and microbiology]. I can't do both. It's just a matter in which you hit a point where you want to focus on what's most important to you and to really do it."

  Although the dual announcement was as Willard admitted, complicated, and met with initial surprise within the departments and faculty, Nevins' decision was generally well-accepted. Nevins, described by Willard as the "Sara Lee of this institution because everyone likes him," said that his colleagues welcomed his decision because of his desire to focus on the development of genomics as a science.

  Nevins' academic interests lie at the heart of the CGT, whose mission involves the development of novel approaches to genome analysis that investigates entire genetic sequences of organisms. As the development of DNA microarray analysis, a powerful tool that is having a tremendous impact on the future of cancer, and use of fungal pathogenics continues to expand in leaps and bounds, so has Nevins' involvement in the CGT. Mike West, professor of statistics and decision sciences and co-investigator with Nevins on one of the CGT's centerpiece initiatives involving breast cancer, is excited about Nevins' decision to fully direct his energies toward the CGT.

  "Now, the Center will be able to expand and grow as a result of [Nevins] moving out of his administrative role [in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology]," he said.

  Nevins, however, plans to remain chair until next summer, when his replacement will be named. Citing the current availability of resources in the department for the recruitment of seven additional junior faculty members, he is confident of the future of the department.

  "It's a good time to be stepping down as chair of the department because the department is in very good condition at the moment," he said. "It's a very strong department that also has tremendous opportunity for further programmatic growth and so it's a time in which we can go out and recruit a new chair and do it from a very strong position."

  While Nevins' search committee finds his chair successor, the construction of CGT's final home, the second floor of the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences, is also under way. With the prospect of new research space, a center director and a clearer direction for the IGSP as a whole with Willard at its helm, CGT now has the ability to make waves in genome technology research.

  "Because I was just the interim director before and because we didn't have a director of the whole institute until last January, it really was a circumstance where we held back from full-scale growth and development," Nevins said. "And now that we have [Willard] and we're starting to implement the planning and move forward, it's time now for the genome center to start expanding and growing and doing what we had always envisioned for it."


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