The Department of Biological Sciences was formed in 1966 through the merger of two previous departments, Zoology and Botany. The Zoology Department had a very distinguished history. Thomas Hunt Morgan, Edmund Beecher Wilson, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, extraordinary pioneers in genetics, cell biology, and evolutionary biology, respectively, were leading faculty who did their seminal work at Columbia from the 1900s to the 1940s. Cyrus Levinthal was recruited from MIT in 1968 with a mission to further build up biology at Columbia. The initial focus for the Department was on molecular biology and neurobiology, two areas that remain at the forefront of modern biology. The Department expanded into additional research areas over the past two decades, such as developmental biology, cell biology, structural biology, biophysics, chemical biology, and computational biology. Our faculty members have received many honors and awards, an indication of the strength of the Department. We count among our faculty two Nobel Laureates (Chalfie, Frank), a Benjamin Franklin Medalist (Frank), six members of both the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chalfie, Frank, Greenwald, Manley, Prives, Przeworksi), two National Academy of Medicine members (Chalfie, Prives), two NIH Director’s Pioneer Award winners (Tavazoie, Yuste), and four Guggenheim Fellowship winners (Bussemaker, Firestein, Landweber, Pollack). [read more]
We the members of Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences believe we have a responsibility to be actively anti-racist and to support everyone in our community through overt and sustained action. Members of underrepresented groups – particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Americans – earn an unacceptably low percentage of academic degrees in science and engineering fields in the United States. This trend is representative of the systemic injustices in our society that limit access for many qualified and talented individuals. It is the responsibility of all scientists, and ours as a leading biology department, to be allies against racism at all levels, including within our own broader community. We will realize our allyship by addressing racist and discriminatory actions and by taking concrete steps to welcome, support, and uplift members into our department who have historically been underrepresented in the sciences. We believe that such actions will strengthen our department and help us stand in solidarity with those working to correct the historical injustices that still pervade much of society.