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Checking in With Dean Forbes -- December 2019

I spent part of last week with about 90 other biologists at a meeting in Atlanta on Reintegrating Biology hosted by the National Science Foundation. It was one of three parallel “jumpstart” meetings happening around the country and online.  We were asked to think about big questions in biology such as: Is there a universal theoretical framework to understand robustness and resilience? How does life persist despite constant change? How can artificial intelligence be utilized to advance biology? and so on. We then had to draft vision papers that NSF will synthesize into materials to be used to support future initiatives. It was an intense few days — both energizing and exhausting — as well as a wonderful opportunity to connect with biologists from other subdisciplines than my own and think really big thoughts.  

Encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration
That crossover between disciplines is part of the impetus behind the Grand Challenges in Biology Postdoctoral Program as well. The program is designed to encourage the kind of collaborations between sub-disciplines and across disciplines that are needed to realize the full potential of the biological sciences to advance knowledge and drive solutions. Many of us collaborate with people in our field on a regular basis, but there’s much to be gained by expanding that circle, and this program is just one way to do it. Applications just opened for the fourth cohort of the Grand Challenges Postdoctoral Program. Please encourage any promising postdocs you know to apply. 

A fantastic year for CBS
With the year coming to a close, I’m struck by what a phenomenal 12 months it has been for the College. Two CBS faculty members — Marlene Zuk and Dan Voytas — were elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and many more received accolades including most highly cited researchers of 2019. We achieved our $21 million Campaign goal ahead of schedule and surpassed our goal of 100 active four-year scholarships. We opened the University’s first active-learning lab and reached more people than ever through our outreach efforts. I’m grateful for your fantastic work.  The extraordinary efforts of our faculty and staff makes it all happen.

More great things ahead
This spring promises to be just as action packed with the opening of the new CBS Conservatory and Botanical Collection, the official launch of the Impact Exchange, a hub for science communication and outreach, the return of the Petri Dish and SciSpark, and more. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful winter break and look forward to great things in the new year.


December, 2019