About Us

Our Department

The Department of Cell Biology was founded in the early 1970's by George E. Palade, who received the Nobel Prize in 1974 for fundamental discoveries that began to define the cell in mechanistic terms. In subsequent years, Palade's legacy has endured due to the many award-winning faculty based in the Department, which is also spread throughout the School of Medicine, the main University campus, and the West campus.

The department is currently headed by James Rothman, the Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, and recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Under his leadership the department has grown substantially and comprises a young, dynamic and intensely interactive group with a diverse array of research interests. Our faculty are committed to training the next generation of Cell Biologists and many of our postdoctoral and student alumni have gone on to successful careers in academia, biotech, and the pharmaceutical industry.

History of the Department

The Department of Cell Biology at Yale draws on a rich history rooted in the medical school's early forays into the fields of anatomy, microscopy and histology. In 1858, Rudolph Virchow articulated what became the accepted form of the cell theory, Omnis cellula e cellula ("every cell is derived from a [preexisting] cell"). He founded the medical discipline of cellular pathology, which posited that 'disturbances in cells' are the fundamental bases of human disease. Research in the department stems from this conceptual foundation. For an in depth description of the history of Cell Biology at Yale, read Thomas Lentz's "History of the Department of Cell Biology."

In 2008, James Rothman became the Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Chair of Cell Biology. His research program investigates the molecular mechanisms and regulation of vesicular traffic and membrane fusion in cells. Rothman has received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2002, the 2010 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, and 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. In 2012, Rothman established the Nanobiology Institute on Yale's West Campus, comprised of faculty from the Department of Cell Biology and other Yale departments, which endeavors to discover the principles that unite living and synthetic materials at the nanoscale.