A new dean

Naomi Rosenberg takes the helm at Sackler School

In the mid-1970s, when Naomi Rosenberg was a postdoctoral student in the MIT laboratory of Nobel Laureate David Baltimore, there were few chances for interdisciplinary teamwork and only whispered discussions of pursuing a career outside the laboratory.

Naomi Rosenberg

Naomi Rosenberg © Joel Haskell

“The scientific climate has changed since then,” notes Rosenberg, professor of pathology at Tufts School of Medicine. “Scientists today are looking into many different careers. Even in traditional careers, more of an interdisciplinary team approach is needed than in the past.”

Making sure students at Tufts’ Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences are prepared for the new climate is Rosenberg’s top priority as the school’s new dean. “I want to enrich what we have and develop new opportunities for multidisciplinary training.” Some of those initiatives could be under the aegis of existing Sackler programs; some would involve partnerships with other Tufts schools.

For instance, says Rosenberg, work on tissue engineering and regeneration is under way in at least three Tufts schools—Sackler, the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Engineering—and conversations about collaborative projects have already begun.

Rosenberg came straight from her postdoctoral studies to Tufts in 1977, at the invitation of Dr. Robert Schwartz, professor of medicine, who was asked by the medical school to establish a cancer research center and hire scientists for it.

“She’s very empathetic and sympathetic and very smart,” says Schwartz, a deputy editor at The New England Journal of Medicine. “On top of that, she has street smarts. If she’s given the resources, I know she will do well.”

Sackler history
Rosenberg brings a sense of history to her new office. She was among Sackler’s first faculty when the school was created as part of the medical school in 1983. She helped develop—and for years has directed—the school’s genetics program. She’s watched the Sackler School grow to a current enrollment of 148 students in nine Ph.D. programs.

“But we’ve never had any education planning,” says Rosenberg. “We need a discussion of where we want to be in five years. We need to identify what’s missing and what we need. Should we have more uniformity in the way programs deal with students? Do we need to teach students more writing and presentation skills? How can we strengthen minority recruitment?”

Rosenberg, who as Sackler dean reports to the dean of the medical school, will focus primarily on Sackler’s education programs. She also will work closely with medical school Dean Michael Rosenblatt and the medical school’s basic science department chairs in developing strategic plans for Sackler’s research program. “But I will not be a point person for research efforts,” she notes.

Her preliminary agenda as dean includes obtaining more training grants and educational support from corporations and foundations.

Rosenberg’s colleagues are pleased with her appointment. “We are all so happy that she was interested in being dean,” says Catherine Squires, professor and chair of molecular biology and microbiology. “She’s always able to handle everything and never gets pushed out of shape or panics. And you can always count on getting a thoughtful, straight story from her.”

Perhaps one reason she has a reputation for “handling everything” is that she easily gets by on five and a half hours of sleep and is routinely at her desk at 6 a.m. Her husband, Dr. Morton B. Rosenberg, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the dental school and associate professor of anesthesia at the medical school, keeps similar hours. Their daughter is a sophomore at Trinity College, and their son will be entering Tufts in the fall.

Rosenberg will maintain her Sackler laboratory and her NIH-funded research exploring the ways cancers develop. While she intends to keep her office on the eighth floor of the Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences, she also will spend a significant portion of her day in the Sackler School dean’s office across the street.

She will step down from directing the Sackler genetics program and advising students in the school’s immunology program. However, she will continue the work she took on as principal investigator of a $95,508 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Planning Grant to help the School of Dental Medicine build a basic science research program.

And she will continue to be at her desk—either near her lab or in her dean’s office—by 6 a.m