Tjian Takes the Helm

Photograph of Thomas R. Cech, Purnell W. Choppin, Robert Tjian

Left to right: Thomas R. Cech, Purnell W. Choppin, Robert Tjian

HHMI Leadership,
Past and Present
Three generations of HHMI presidents gathered for a symposium celebrating the 80th birthday of Purnell W. Choppin, who served as the Institute’s president from 1985 to 1999. The event featured speakers presenting the latest research on viruses and vaccines, several of whom were once students in Choppin’s research lab.

Longtime HHMI investigator and distinguished biochemist Robert Tjian became HHMI’s fourth president on April 1, 2009. As a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, Tjian held several important positions, including director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center and faculty director of the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.

He also led an initiative to support and implement new paradigms for bioscience teaching and research. Tjian will continue to do research at labs in Berkeley and Janelia Farm.

Tjian took over from Thomas R. Cech, who served as president for nine years. During his tenure, Cech expanded the Institute’s flagship investigator program and oversaw the opening of the Institute’s first freestanding research center, the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, among many other accomplishments. A Nobel Prize winner, Cech returned to his research laboratory at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he is an HHMI investigator and teaches an introductory chemistry class.

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Photo credit: Cech, Choppin, and Tjian: Paul Fetters