Weill Hall at night and 2012 group photo

Message from the Director

Welcome to the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology at Cornell University. I am delighted to be the institute’s first Director and am honored to be working with such an impressive team of researchers at Cornell--all of us sharing the goal of establishing a multidisciplinary institute to study cell and molecular biology. The Weill Institute is part of Cornell University's bold New Life Sciences Initiative.

The institute, located in Weill Hall, now includes ten faculty members with appointments in the departments of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Plant Biology. We aim to provide the best possible environment for our faculty and their labs to do world-class research.

Completing the sequence for the human genome in 2000 represented an enormous step forward in biomedical research. However it was only the beginning of what is an explosive period of discovery. Developing the approaches and instrumentation needed to characterize the structure, functions, and dynamics of the molecular machines that ultimately keep all cells alive requires an enormous effort involving the expertise of faculty in many disciplines. It is the goal of the Weill Institute to make major contributions in this endeavor.

The Weill Institute sits at the center of Cornell’s Ithaca campus and is becoming a vibrant hub of scientific excellence in basic biology. This is an era of profound discovery in the Life Sciences. Together with existing outstanding programs in chemistry and chemical biology, physics, computational biology and engineering, the Weill Institute is helping Cornell achieve the promise of these exciting times.

Meet the Director - Scott D. Emr, Ph.D.

Scott D. Emr
Scott D. Emr

Scott D. Emr, Ph.D., is the Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University (2007 - present). He is also the Director of the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology.

Dr. Emr received his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Genetics from Harvard University in 1981. He completed postdoctoral research on protein trafficking in the yeast secretory pathway at the University of California, Berkeley (Miller Research Scholar; 1981 - 1983), in the laboratory of Dr. Randy Schekman. Prior to joining the faculty at Cornell University, Dr. Emr also held positions at the California Institute of Technology (Assistant and Associate Professor; 1983 - 1991) and the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine (Distinguished Professor and Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; 1991 - 2007).

Since his arrival at Cornell University in 2007, Dr. Emr has served as the first Director of the Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology located in a new research building, Weill Hall, in the center of the Cornell campus. Weill Hall was designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, and it features large, open labs with state-of-the-art research facilities. The Weill Institute has grown under Dr. Emr's direction and now hosts ten faculty members representing most of the life science disciplines.

Dr. Emr has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2007), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2004), and as a foreign member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (2008). In 2003, he was awarded the Hansen Foundation Gold Medal Prize for "elucidating intracellular sorting and transport pathways". In 2007, he was awarded the Avanti Prize for his "key contributions in understanding lipid signaling pathways". He has published over 200 research articles and reviews, and has trained over 90 graduate students and postdoctoral associates in his lab since 1983.

Dr. Emr's research focuses on the regulation of cell signaling and membrane trafficking pathways by phosphoinositide lipids, ubiquitin modifications, and vesicle-mediated transport reactions. The Emr lab discovered the essential role for phosphoinositide lipid kinases in the regulation of membrane trafficking in the secretory and endocytic pathways. These essential enzymes ensure the temporal and spatial specificity of vesicle-mediated transport reactions throughout the cell. More recently, Dr. Emr's lab identified the first components (the ESCRT complexes) of the molecular machinery required for receptor down-regulation, the budding and release of the HIV virus, and for a late step in cytokinesis.