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Northwestern to Integrate Biomedical, Life Sciences

December 2, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University has launched a comprehensive initiative to integrate its diverse resources and talents in the biomedical and life sciences.

The goal of One Northwestern is to expand and strengthen the University's role as a leader and innovator in an increasingly multi-disciplinary environment.

One Northwestern is the result of more than a year's work by five task forces of 150 individuals from seven schools on both campuses and affiliated hospitals, led by study co-chairs J. Larry Jameson, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean, Feinberg School of Medicine, and Richard I. Morimoto, Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Provost Daniel Linzer said, "One Northwestern will promote new interactions and science across both campuses and the hospitals, leveraging collective strengths to produce one of the most important life sciences transformations in Northwestern history. This is a major step forward that builds on the significant investments during the last 25 years that have contributed to the growth and stature of our biomedical and life sciences enterprise."

Provost Linzer and President Henry S. Bienen have approved the first four priority areas identified in the planning initiative. They are:

• Increase hiring coordination
Rationale: A change is suggested in the hiring paradigm to hire and retain the best faculty in a competitive hiring arena. This could include opportunities for the best candidates to work across department lines; development of multi-year strategic hiring plans that benefit the institution as a whole and mobilize faculty to assist in recruiting and retention, particularly in emerging scientific areas; and facilitate center/institute involvement in establishment of hiring priorities.

Next steps: Deans, department chairs, center/institute heads and administrators have been invited to a meeting to begin hiring discussions, with recognition of a constrained budget environment that adds further urgency to recruit jointly and pool set-up packages in areas of competitive opportunity. This group will discuss further mechanisms and strategies to foster interdepartmental and interschool hiring. Key Northwestern faculty across schools and departments would be involved in the recruiting process.

• Increase connectivity and community
Rationale: To leverage assets better, it is necessary to create one community of scholars. Traditionally, faculty and students have found collaborators and mentors by chance. Under One Northwestern, plans call for proactively creating forums that allow faculty, students and staff to interact in both formal and informal ways. New information systems would be established to enhance opportunities for collaborative research and training grants.

Next steps: The report proposes to support regular forums to bring faculty from both campuses together for formal and informal interactions; develop systems that allow faculty to find collaborators; and develop opportunities for faculty, students, post-docs and staff to come together as one life and biomedical science community.

• Establish one graduate program for life and biomedical sciences
Rationale: Students participating in this study said Northwestern's multiple graduate program offerings create confusion in the marketplace. They expressed a desire to have access to the full range of faculty and offerings at Northwestern, regardless of program or campus. Faculty, staff and funds are now split between two campus-based programs, IBiS and IGP. Both programs have a successful history of training doctoral students, but the report proposes to leverage those successes and lessons learned to create a unified, stronger program that is truly One Northwestern. Examples of successful cross-campus programs already exist (MSTP, NUIN) and the Graduate Education task force has identified the characteristics of an ideal graduate program that can be integrated into the new model. Changes should result in Northwestern becoming sought by top graduate student candidates worldwide.

Next Steps: The Graduate School and administration have discussed the resources needed to support this program, and new resources have been committed. The Graduate School will convene a task force of students, program directors and other faculty to develop the academic aspects of the program (curriculum, student support, faculty involvement, etc). This group will present its recommendations to the wider community so that recruiting in March can be based on this new program. One Web portal will be created for Northwestern life and biomedical science graduate programs so prospective students will have a comprehensive understanding of the University's faculty and resources.

• Rationalize and optimize the current departments, centers and institutes
Rationale: Many departments and centers were established decades ago, resulting in outdated and often redundant department and center names. There are gaps in critical intellectual areas. Department and center names must properly reflect current scholarly activity, so that Northwestern has a forward-thinking, rather than historic, portfolio of units. Processes should be developed to launch new entities to highlight Northwestern's strengths and leverage talent and resources.

Next Steps: The report recommends establishing a cross-campus group to review current department and center names, as well as those at peer institutions, and to recommend options for new names and entities to chairs, directors and administrators; commissioning a short-term workgroup to analyze the possibility of re-establishing a Neurosciences Institute (the report will be due by March 2009); and analyzing the possibility of creating a department of genetics and development.
Topics: Research, University News