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Message from the Chair

Ashani Weeraratna

Welcome to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. As the Chair, I’d like to share my thoughts on the Department’s research and education programs and my goals for the future.

BMB’s history of making basic science discoveries that advance public health reaches back over 100 years to the founding of the School of Public Health. The first Chair, E.V. McCollum, made early advances in nutrition, including the discovery of vitamin A, that inform not just current nutrition science research, but decisions people make today about their health and diets.

The ongoing and critical impact of basic biochemical and molecular research on the treatments and practices that are used in global health care cannot be ignored. The COVID-19 pandemic response has made clear the importance of not just medical research but also the field of public health, and the critical need for strong connections between the two. Our School of Public Health has been a leader in these times. Public health can happen at the scale of millions, but it rests on fundamental understandings of health at the molecular level. Without basic biochemistry and molecular biology advances, many of the therapies we use to treat diseases such as cancer, malaria, and diabetes would not have been developed.

My goal as chair is to continue to further integrate our basic biology research with the other Departments within the School of Public Health, connecting, for example, the evolving epidemiology of aging and cancer mortality with basic science observations on the how the aging tumor microenvironment drives tumor progression.

In addition to advancing public health through basic research, BMB has a tradition of education and training. When I started my career in biomedical sciences over 30 years ago as a technician in the Oncology Center at Johns Hopkins, I took classes here in BMB. This department was my first foray into graduate education–and I will strive to make sure we continue to support and train future researchers. The department’s master's, doctoral, and postdoctoral programs offer trainees opportunities to advance their careers in science and medicine. Our faculty and staff put a priority on recruiting talented, motivated trainees, and providing them with effective teaching and mentoring so that they can excel. We strive to provide a challenging but supportive and intellectually stimulating environment for all of our students, and a safe space in which they can flourish. One of my goals is to ensure that BMB continues to be a department that fosters collaboration, encourages diversity and embraces inclusion of all people. We are proud of the fact that we instituted a Diversity and Inclusion Committee several years ago, that continues to flourish and grow, and addresses the needs of our wonderfully diverse community here at BMB. We hope that you will visit us soon and see it for yourself. In the meantime, I invite you to explore the rest of our website to learn more about our department.

I look forward to all of the exciting times ahead!


Ashani Weeraratna
E.V. McCollum Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Cancer Biology