Former Chemistry Chair to Become Scripps Research Institute President

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After 10 years at UC Berkeley, former Chemistry Department Chair Michael Marletta will leave his position on campus this July to become the president of the Scripps Research Institute.

Though Marletta - who served as the chair of the department from 2005 to 2010 - will not officially assume his new role of president until January 2012, he will take a leave of absence from UC Berkeley beginning this July and will continue his research in the bio-chemical field as president-elect at the institute. Once his term begins, Marletta's duties will include organizing philanthropy and fundraising events for research, as well as setting the overall scientific direction for the institute.

Throughout his career, Marletta has gained recognition for his research in the biochemical field, wherein he focused on protein structure, especially the fundamental principles concerning nitric oxide and its interaction with bacteria.

"I found that I enjoyed the combination of doing research, leading a group and having a vision and being able to put that into practice," he said. "Being chair of the department was something that I truly enjoyed doing, so I wanted to find something to continue that."

During his time at UC Berkeley, Marletta founded a now-popular introductory chemical biology course - which Marletta said has a waitlist every semester - and currently acts as an advisor for a group of 16 research assistants in the Marletta Lab, who will have the opportunity to follow him to Scripps once his research lab relocates to the headquarters in San Diego.

While serving as chair of the department, Marletta was also vital in the retention of nearly a dozen faculty members who were approached by competing private universities with job offers, according to Daniel Neumark, current chair of the department.

Neumark and several research assistants described Marletta as a "great" advisor and mentor.

"He's definitely very caring, great to work for in the lab, a very good mix of caring about students and projects and caring deeply about the science that we do," said graduate student Lars Plate, a research assistant in Marletta's lab. "Considering how active he was as department chair and with Scripps, he's still around a lot and there for everyone in the lab when we need him."

Neumark also described Marletta as "superb and selfless" and said he was "a great colleague, a great chair," as Marletta eased Neumark into his role as the next department chair during their biweekly meetings last year.

Christine Phillips-Piro, a postdoctoral fellow at the Marletta Lab, said that although she is sad that Marletta will be leaving, she thinks he will be a great leader for the institute.

"I'm really excited for him and for science in general," she said. "We really need some scientists that are also good politicians that can get out there and sell the science and get funding, especially in a bad funding environment. Not that he can't do this at Berkeley, but at Scripps as president he will have a much broader impact on science in general."

Marletta said he will commute from Berkeley to Scripps for the next two years until his son graduates from Berkeley High School. At that time, he and his wife plan to make the permanent move to San Diego.

"I think Berkeley has the best faculty, colleagues and students that I've seen anywhere; that's what really makes it great," he said. "The Ph.D. students that come to Berkeley are just outstanding, and I'll miss that, but the opportunity is simply too great to pass up."


Contact Jessica Rossoni at [email protected]

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