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 developmental 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 a Nobel Laureate (Chalfie), a Lasker Award winner (Sheetz), a Benjamin Franklin Medalist (Frank), five members of both the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chalfie, Frank, Greenwald, Manley, and Prives), two National Academy of Medicine members (Chalfie and Prives), two NIH Director’s Pioneer Award winners (Pe’er and Yuste), and three Guggenheim Fellowship winners (Bussemaker, Firestein, and Pollack).