Rosbash named to new Gruber neuroscience chair

Professor's outstanding work, President Lawrence's guidance praised by donors

Photos/Mike Lovett

Brandeis Professor Michael Rosbash, an award-winning scientist whose research has provided important insights into the brain, health and sleep disorders, was named today as the inaugural Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience. President Fred Lawrence made the announcement at the March faculty meeting.

Rosbash, a 2009 laureate of the Gruber Neuroscience Prize along with Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young, is a longtime Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and directs the Brandeis National Center for Behavioral Genomics.

The chair was established by the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation through a recent gift to Brandeis that joined a name associated with funding science prizes with one of the leading brain research centers in higher education.

“We are honored that the Grubers recognize the groundbreaking neuroscience research being conducted at Brandeis and are thrilled that they are committed to helping the university maintain its leadership in this critical area,” Lawrence said. “We are proud and deeply grateful to link the Gruber and Brandeis names in perpetuity through the establishment of this endowed chair. And it is entirely fitting that Michael Rosbash is named as the inaugural chair. Simply put, his work has been extraordinary.”

Rosbash recently shared the 2011 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University with Hall, a Brandeis professor emeritus, and Young, a professor at Rockefeller University. At Brandeis, Rosbash and Hall collaborated closely for more than two decades, combining their expertise in fly genetics and molecular biology to clone the Drosophila fruit fly period gene, a key regulator of circadian rhythms. The mechanism of the molecular clock that they then discovered later was found to be universal in the biological world. Through ongoing research, Rosbash continues to advance understanding of the importance of circadian rhythms to health and disease.

"I am honored to be the first Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience,” Rosbash said. “The Grubers were special people to me even before receiving this distinction. Peter and Patricia’s foundation is a beacon that shines on many areas of inquiry, and it also shares with Brandeis an interest in social justice. The entire community here is fortunate to have such wonderful benefactors."

Established in 1993, the Gruber Foundation moved its International Prize Program to Yale University in 2011. The prize program awards three $500,000 science prizes annually in the fields of cosmology, genetics and neuroscience, and funds justice and women’s rights programs through Yale Law School. The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation continues to make limited grants.

“We believe that continuing the excellence of neuroscience research at Brandeis, through the outstanding work of Michael Rosbash and with President Lawrence’s able guidance, will be an appropriate and lasting way to honor my husband, Peter,” Patricia Gruber said.

Lawrence’s connection to the Gruber Foundation predates his arrival at Brandeis as president in January 2011. While serving as dean of the George Washington University Law School, he presided over a ceremony in which Judge Thomas Buergenthal, a GW law professor emeritus, received the 2008 Gruber Justice Prize, along with lawyer and human rights activist Jerome Shestack. Buergenthal received an honorary degree from Brandeis last year.

“When we first met Fred Lawrence, he demonstrated strong qualities of leadership and dedication to the highest standards, which paralleled those of our prize program,” Patricia Gruber said. “He was so impressive that we stayed in touch and were thrilled when he became president at Brandeis.”

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