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December 16, 2002

Media Contacts: Leslie Franz, (619) 543-6163

UCSD Recruits Acclaimed Protein Scientist
As Dean for Scientific Affairs-Health Sciences

Jack Dixon, Ph.D., director of the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan and one of the world’s leading biological chemists, has been recruited to serve as Dean for Scientific Affairs, Health Sciences, at the University of California, San Diego. He will begin his duties February 1, 2003. He will also hold faculty appointments as Professor of Pharmacology, and of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

A National Academy of Science member, Dixon has been a pioneer in the study of proteins and their function, with a focus on a family of proteins called phosphotases that play a key role in cellular response to molecular signals. His work has helped define a broad range of signaling actions, including the role of specific phosphotases in cancer and tumor suppression, and in cellular response to bacterial toxins, which has direct implications for biological warfare research.

“Jack Dixon is not only an extraordinary scientist, he is also a visionary and a leader,” said UCSD Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Edward W. Holmes. “He has a unique ability to see the big picture and bring people from diverse disciplines together so that one plus one equals something much greater than two. I expect Jack to quickly engage in this robust research community, helping to help forge new collaborations and working to enhance the ongoing efforts that make this region the national leader in multidisciplinary research programs.”

“This is a homecoming of sorts for me, and I am looking forward to working in closer proximity with a number of colleagues who I have come to admire over the years,” said Dixon, who earned his B.A. at UCLA, his Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara, and conducted postdoctoral fellowship training at UCSD in the laboratory of the late Nathan Kaplan. “I welcome the opportunity to participate in this outstanding university and this research community, which is so rich in scientific talent.”

Dixon fills a position previously held by George Palade, M.D., the Nobel Laureate who served as UCSD’s first Dean of Scientific Affairs, Health Sciences, from 1990 until his recent retirement, with Gordon Gill, M.D., serving in an interim role over the past year. In his administrative role, Dixon will oversee research initiatives of the Health Sciences, supporting ongoing programs and leading the design and implementation of new initiatives both internally and with partners outside of the university.

UCSD School of Medicine is ranked second in the nation in research funding per faculty member. UCSD ranks fourth in research impact in a survey recently released by the Institute for Scientific Information, with rankings in individual fields including second in clinical medicine research, third in pharmacology and fourth in molecular biology and genetics. The ISI survey also ranked UCSD in the top 10 in biology, biochemistry and chemistry, among other fields.

Dixon will continue to run his own research laboratory, with a number of members of his Michigan team relocating to San Diego. He has published over 250 peer reviewed articles over the course of his career and is considered a superb instructor and mentor for students and post-graduate trainees. His research funding includes an NIH MERIT Award.

“We are excited that Jack Dixon is coming to UCSD,” said Tony Hunter, Ph.D., a scientist with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. “He is one of the leaders in the signal transduction field, and is well known for his pioneering work on protein and lipid phosphatases and their roles in human disease, including cancer. Jack has also made seminal contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms through which pathogenic bacteria block cellular machinery by injecting proteins that target key components of the signaling systems that control cell growth and shape, thereby causing human disease. Jack will be highly sought after for his experience in these fields, and his plans to foster interactions between scientists at UCSD and neighboring institutions will make an already outstanding scientific community even stronger.”

Dixon began his faculty career at Purdue University in 1973, leaving Purdue in 1991 to become Chair of Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan, where he also is the Minor J. Coon Professor of Biological Chemistry as well as Director of the Life Sciences Institute.

In addition to his NAS membership, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also former president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which has awarded him the 2003 William Rose Award for outstanding contributions to biochemical and molecular biological research and a demonstrated commitment to training younger scientists.


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