DMS searches for 12 geneticists

by Alice Gomstyn | 11/6/00 6:00am

Nearly a year and a half after the Board of Trustees approved plans for a new department of genetics at Dartmouth Medical School, administrators continue to review a host of potential applicants to fill 12 targeted full-time positions.

In general, hiring faculty members at institutions of higher education is a very long and involved process, according to the genetic department's first chair, professor Jay Dunlap.

The process is also an expensive one.

Dunlap estimated that Dartmouth invests approximately half a million dollars in bringing a new professor to the College. This sizeable price tag, he explained, adds to the importance of selecting the most qualified candidates.

"There's an enormous outlay in terms of capital expenses ... and the penalty for making the mistake is large, so you only want to find the very best people," he said.

DMS expects to hire a complete faculty for the fledgling department over a five-year period. A search committee -- composed of six faculty members from both the College and the medical school -- is in charge of screening and interviewing applicants, most of whom are currently employed at other academic institutions, according to Dunlap.

The committee is also considering including professors specializing in crystallography -- the science of determining protein structures -- to be among those chosen for faculty positions. Dunlap said that practicing crystallography will enhance the medical school's capability of studying and potentially treating various diseases.

"Crystallography is one of the most interesting areas of life sciences these days," he said. "Being able to combine structural biology with genetics could be very powerful."

The new crystallographers would join two hired by the chemistry department last year, Dunlap said.

The genetics department at Dartmouth Medical School has been in a stage of continual development since the Board of Trustees approved plans for the department during their quarterly meeting in April 1999.

The following October, Dean of Dartmouth Medical School John Baldwin named Dunlap -- a member of the biochemistry faculty at Dartmouth since 1984 -- as the inaugural chair of the new department.

Funding for the genetics department originated with resources reallocated by DMS. In December 1999, the department's funding grew substantially with the addition of a $3.4 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The bulk of this money has been set aside for the recruitment of junior faculty.

Dunlap is enthusiastic about potential future members of the genetics faculty.

"We certainly have some terrific applicants," he said. "We expect that we'll be able to hire some of them ... [within] this academic year."

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