Emory Report

October 25, 1999

 Volume 52, No. 9

Insel leaves Yerkes post to head neuroscience center

Tom Insel has stepped down as director of Yerkes Research Center to become director of the new multi-institution Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN), established at Emory last month with the largest research grant ever received by the University.

Insel, who has headed Yerkes since 1994 and was the center's seventh director since its founding, announced the move the day after the Oct. 14 dedication of the Vaccine Research Building, saying he did not want to distract from the celebration.

"Tom Insel came to Emory from the National Institutes of Health five years ago to build a broad multidisciplinary program at Yerkes," said Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs. "His charge was to expand the center's scientific base, strengthen programs in the neurosciences specifically, and build stronger collaborations across Emory and other institutions.

"He has done this and more, with vision and energy," Johns continued. "He now is poised to build an even bigger and more comprehensive program, involving scientists and institutions across Atlanta in an imaginative effort to answer some of science's most intriguing questions."

The CBN fits into Emory's commitment to build strategic initiatives across the entire University and reach out to other schools in the Atlanta area, according to Provost Rebecca Chopp. Johns added it also focuses on one of the most promising areas of science today, one that was designated as a high priority in Health Sciences' recently completed research strategic plan.

"The opportunity to lead a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional program like this could only happen in a city like Atlanta, which is so rich in intellectual resources with the complementary strengths of Emory, Georgia State, Georgia Tech and the Atlanta University Center," Insel said. "This is not only the place, but clearly the time for this new initiative. New tools for screening thousands of expressed genes, for mapping distant brain connections and for neuroimaging make this a crucial time for enormous advances in both basic and clinical neuroscience."

"A program of the magnitude of the new Center for Behavioral Neuroscience requires a visionary leader to build and implement it," Chopp said. "Tom Insel is that leader, both scientifically and administratively, as witnessed by the extraordinary gifts he displayed in bringing together so many diverse research interests, resources and institutions in the creation and funding of the Neurobehavioral Center itself."

Thomas Gordon, long-time associate director of scientific programs and chief of psychobiology at Yerkes, has been named interim director effective Nov. 1. Gordon joined Yerkes in 1970 as a research associate, later becoming research professor at Yerkes as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology.

"Tom Gordon has been an invaluable part of the growth in Yerkes' scientific programs over the past five years," Johns said. "His knowledge of Yerkes, his involvement in its research programs and his management and communication skills make him an excellent choice for interim director to maintain the momentum and successes of Yerkes."

-Sylvia Wrobel

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