Rice University
BioSciences at Rice

History of Biochemistry & Cell Biology at Rice 

George J. Schroepfer  

In 1972, George J. Schroepfer, Jr. was recruited from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to Rice by William Gordon, then Dean of Science & Engineering. He was charged with starting a new Department of Biochemistry and recruiting new faculty interested in pursuing research of fundamental importance to medicine, biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology. The department expanded in its second decade (1987) to include new faculty in cell, developmental, and molecular biology and was renamed Biochemistry & Cell Biology.

George Schroepfer engrained the fledgling department with a strong ethic for quality in research and in teaching, a commitment that has been maintained throughout the history of the department. The faculty in Biochemistry & Cell Biology measure themselves not only by their research accomplishments but also by the success of their students in the classroom and in their subsequent careers. BCB undergraduate majors commonly participate in research and complete medical school or doctoral programs, and our PhD graduates hold diverse positions in academia, industry, policy, education, and even in the astronaut corps.

Current faculty interests in Biochemistry & Cell Biology include the emerging field of systems & synthetic biology, developmental biology studied in diverse model organisms from plants to zebrafish, studies across a spectrum of microorganisms from viruses to yeast, and translational research for a range of medical applications. A strong culture of faculty service pervades our department, where expertise is volunteered nationally for NIH, NSF, and other governmental agencies as well as for serving in a variety of leadership roles in professional organizations across the spectrum of faculty endeavors. In addition, faculty have been highly engaged as leaders in local research organizations: Institute of Biosciences & Bioengineering, Gulf Coast Consortia, newly developing Rice University Neuroscience Program, and BioSciences Research Collaborative. The Department's Vanzant Seminar Series in Biochemistry & Cell Biology brings prominent scientists to our campus for presenting their research and meeting with our faculty and students.

When George Schroepfer first arrived in 1972, two biochemists in the Department of Biology joined the new Department of Biochemistry, and in 1987 three other members of the Department of Biology joined the expanded Biochemistry & Cell Biology Department. On July 1, 2014 the Departments of Biochemistry & Cell Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology merged to form BioSciences at Rice, reuniting life sciences at Rice University into single administrative unit.