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Sean Eddy to Become New MCB Department Chair

Sean Eddy to Become New MCB Department Chair

Professor Sean Eddy has been named as the next MCB Department Chair. He will succeed current MCB Department Chair Venkatesh Murthy, when Murthy’s three year term concludes on June 30th.

“This essential role is multi-faceted,” MCB executive director Jessica Manning explains. The MCB Chair’s duties include recruiting and promoting faculty, setting the departmental budget, allocating resources, mentoring, resolving departmental disputes, mapping out annual plans for both undergraduate and graduate education, and “keeping the department organized and informed,” she adds.

“I see it as an important responsibility, something that everyone in MCB wants to be taken seriously and done well,” Eddy says. “I want everyone in the department always to feel comfortable coming to talk to me about anything that’s on your mind about how we can make MCB an even better department, together.”

“I am thrilled that Sean will be our next Chair,” Murthy says. “He is exactly the sort of multi-disciplinary scientist that MCB needs moving forward. His broad scholarship in foundational biology, combined with his knowledge in physical and mathematical sciences, will greatly help MCB’s mission in the coming years. Sean is also an incredibly thoughtful person that cares deeply for the community. I am sad that he has to start under these difficult conditions, but he is just the right person to steer MCB to better times!”

MCB Scientific Director Polina Kehayova agrees. “He is not only an impressive scholar, but also someone who stands out for his dedication to ensuring that MCB is a community where everyone can thrive,” she says. “I’ve had the privilege to serve on a few committees with him, and I was always inspired by his thoughtful, thorough and empathetic approach. For him, MCB is like family and he wants every member of our family to grow and succeed. It’s an understatement to say that we are going through unusual times, but with Sean and Venki’s leadership, I am confident that we will have a smooth transition.”

Though this changing of the guard was scheduled in advance, Murthy and Eddy are working together to ensure a smooth changeover. Eddy has been shadowing Murthy on virtual meetings, and Manning says that Eddy has been “in constant communication” with Murthy and MCB administrators in order to prepare.

“Dean Chris Stubbs asked me to serve as the next MCB chair a few weeks before the COVID-19 crisis broke in mid-March,” Eddy says. “A few weeks later, after we’d evacuated campus, he called to ask if I wanted to change my mind and back out…But I didn’t really have any hesitation in telling Chris I’m still all in. This is a critical time for MCB and for Harvard. I’m committed to doing my part to help lead us forward.”

“I’m confident that Sean will continue to advance the Department’s teaching and research mission and promote a culture of respect and collegiality while strengthening our community under his leadership, and I look forward to partnering with him,” Manning says.

Murthy, in turn, will be stepping into a new role as Director of the Center for Brain Science.

“Overall, it has been a privilege to chair MCB, with so many accomplished scientists, dedicated administrative and technical staff, astonishingly bright trainees and impressive teachers,” Murthy says. He adds that recruiting new MCB faculty members, such as Nick Bellono, Max Prigozhin, and Amanda Whipple, has been one of his favorite aspects of the job.

Staff who have worked closely with Murthy as Chair say his work in the role has been outstanding. “I’d like to thank Venki for the exceptional job he did as Chair of MCB,” Kehayova says. “Being Chair truly is a labor of love for the department—It takes a lot of unseen work and requires a deep understanding of and care for the needs of all members of our community. Venki has been a tireless, effective, respectful and compassionate Chair who always had the best interest of MCB in mind. I’ve also been continuously in awe of his ability to be so dedicated as a Chair, while continuing to maintain such a vibrant and productive research program. I’ll really miss working closely with him and learning from him.”

“The Members of MCB Administration and I are deeply grateful for having had the privilege and pleasure to work closely with Venki over the past few years while he has been incredibly committed to leading with the best and broad interest of the Department in mind,” Manning says. “We’ll miss working with him in this capacity, but fortunately, he won’t be too far away.”

Although Eddy is becoming the department Chair during an unprecedented time, he plans to implement principles that he gleaned from histories of other famous biology departments.“One of my role models is Max Perutz, the first director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where I was a postdoc,” Eddy says. “Max believed that the best science can’t be planned top-down; rather, that one needed to have a light touch, to nurture an environment where talented people can thrive with freedom and time to pursue their own ideas. He recruited extraordinary people and enabled rather than directed their work…He treated the LMB like his family. He knew everyone in the LMB on a first-name basis, including the glass washers, the cleaners, and the lowly American postdocs.”

“Science thrives best when we feel the support of friends and colleagues giving us confidence to pursue ideas down long and lonely roads,” he adds. “One of my goals will be to help make MCB into an even more tight-knit community.”

by Diana Crow

Sean Eddy (l) and Venki Murthy

Sean Eddy (l) and Venki Murthy