Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Maxine Singer Join Whitehead Leadership

January 21, 2003

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On January 1, the Whitehead Institute welcomed Lydia Villa-Komaroff and Maxine Singer to its leadership ranks. Villa-Komaroff was named Vice President of Research and Chief Operating Officer for the Whitehead Institute; Singer assumed the Chairmanship of the Institute's Board of Directors.

Villa-Komaroff comes to the Institute from Northwestern University, where she served as Vice President for Research since 1998. An internationally recognized scholar in cell and developmental molecular biology, she began her research career under the tutelage of David Baltimore and Harvey Lodish and received her Ph.D. in cell biology from MIT in 1975. Her varied and active professional life took her to research positions at Harvard, the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Cold Spring Harbor, and Children's Hospital in Boston before she joined the Northwestern faculty in 1996.

In the realm of scientific research she is perhaps most widely known for her role in insulin research as a member of Walter Gilbert's team at Harvard, detailed in Stephen Hall's book Invisible Frontiers: The Race to Clone the Insulin Gene. Since switching her focus several years ago from scientific research to administration, she has become renowned for her skills in management and communication.

The positions of Vice President for Research and Chief Operating Officer are new ones at Whitehead, and comprise responsibility for the Institute's management and research infrastructure. She will combine activities that might elsewhere be split in two: Chief Operating Officer and Chief Scientific Officer. This comingling of duties will help optimize science-management practices at the Institute. She is an extremely talented administrator with superb grantsmanship skills, who has proven adept at managing interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research efforts during her tenure at Northwestern.

Singer recently retired from a 14-year tenure as President of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, a multidisciplinary research institution with programs in basic biology, astronomy, and earth sciences. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Carnegie Institution maintains research facilities across the U.S. and internationally.

Singer received her A.B. from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Yale in 1957. She joined the NIH as a postdoc in 1956, and received a research staff appointment two years later. Her distinguished career at NIH culminated in her position as chief, Laboratory of Biochemistry, National Cancer Institute from 1980-1987. She assumed the presidency of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1988. Her research interests have ranged across many areas of biochemistry and molecular biology, including early work on elucidation of the genetic code. Her most recent research has involved studies of repeated DNA sequences called LINES that may have broad significance for understanding genetic diseases.

Singer also has forged for herself a stellar reputation in science public policy, especially in the area of risks from recombinant DNA research and, more recently, support for the human genome project. She also has a strong background in science publication, having served a three-year term as chairman of the editorial board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Maxine is no stranger to Whitehead. She served as a member of the Institute's Board of Directors from 1985-1994, and has given unstintingly of her time and energy on many occasions since. She brings to the Board additional expertise in organizational and research management, philanthropic giving to support science, and efforts to improve public understanding of research.


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