Bio prof is new West Campus czar

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

Scott Strobel in his new West Campus office. Beside him is a bowl he made from a 100-year-old gingko tree that was cut down to make room for the School of Management campus. View full image

You're a high-powered molecular biologist and a well-regarded teacher. What do you do if you're offered a job in administration? "The problem with life decisions," says Scott Strobel, the Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, "is that you can't do the control experiment. When you get an opportunity like this you have to see where it leads."

For Strobel, a 46-year-old Montana native who is an authority on the function of RNA, the opportunity is the job of overseeing development of Yale's West Campus. He was appointed in December to succeed Michael Donoghue as the vice president charged with turning the former Bayer Pharmaceutical campus in West Haven and Orange into a hub for scientific research. (See"Deal of the Century," September/October 2010.)

The process is well under way, with five research institutes either open or in the planning stages. Strobel wants to add a sixth institute focused on energy, which he considers "one of the big problems the world faces that science can help with."

Strobel will have to cut back on teaching to make time for the new assignment. But he wants to continue his Rain Forest Expedition and Laboratory, a spring-term undergraduate biology course that continues into the summer. As part of the course, Strobel and his students travel to the South American rain forest over spring break to hunt for microorganisms in the tissues of plants. "It's entirely possible for a student to find not just a new species but a new genus of microbe," he says.

Less certain is whether Strobel will have the time to keep up with a hobby he has turned into a cottage industry: making bowls and pens out of wood salvaged from downed campus trees. Does he have his eye on any specimens on the 136-acre West Campus? No, he says, he has no conflicts of interest: "I'd rather have the tree than the wood."  

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