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June 10, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to announce the establishment of the Tufts University Neuroscience Institute. Neuroscience is one of the most rapidly advancing and intellectually diverse fields of research today. Its reach extends to not only the biomedical sciences, but also the physical sciences, engineering, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. This new multidisciplinary institute will help the University to capitalize on its great institutional strength in this area.

The Neuroscience Institute will seek to support the unique opportunities at Tufts for our faculty and students to make breakthrough discoveries that will contribute to the fundamental understanding of the brain and nervous system and advance clinical investigations that can improve human health and society. The institute will organize the many activities in neuroscience across the University and promote cross-school collaboration.

Tufts is home to a wide range of researchers, educators, and clinicians working in neuroscience. In recent years, the School of Medicine has greatly strengthened its Department of Neuroscience, which has become one of the top ten neuroscience departments in the nation in terms of research funding. At the School of Arts and Sciences, the Departments of Psychology and of Child Development contain strong groups of faculty members with expertise in the neural basis of cognition, language, emotion, and social behavior. We also have faculty members with expertise in neuroscience appointed in the Department of Biology as well as at the Tufts Medical Center, the School of Engineering, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. And we have a strong interdisciplinary program in cognitive sciences, which includes philosophy, linguistics, and robotics.

Philip Haydon, the Annetta and Gustav Grisard Professor at the School of Medicine and chair of the Department of Neuroscience, will serve as the inaugural director of the Neuroscience Institute. An internationally recognized leader in the field, Professor Haydon investigates the role of glial cells in helping brain cells communicate with each other. As the inaugural director, he will report to the dean of the School of Medicine but will also be accountable to a faculty steering committee appointed by the Provost. Faculty affiliation with the Neuroscience Institute will be broadly inclusive. Professor Haydon will follow up this announcement with a solicitation inviting faculty participation from across the University.

Although the Neuroscience Institute will incorporate both breadth and depth in its events and activities, we expect that at any given time there will be a small number of focal themes that the institute will promote based on particular research strengths and opportunities for collaboration. For example, there are immediate opportunities for collaboration between the School of Medicine and the Tufts Medical Center focusing on research that is unique to Tufts and that holds great promise for obtaining research funding.

The Neuroscience Institute will undergo an external review by the end of its fifth year. The results of that review will inform a decision on whether to renew the institute for another five years. In order for the University to continue creating and supporting new cross-disciplinary initiatives, it is important that they remain vibrant and either evolve in response to changing needs or be discontinued when they have outlived their original purpose. Going forward, all new institutes and centers should undergo periodic external reviews to assess their progress and make an informed case for their continuation. It is also my hope that over time the directorship of University-wide entities such as the Neuroscience Institute will move from one school to another as academic fields change and new faculty leaders are identified.

The Neuroscience Institute positions Tufts to take the fullest advantage of our distinctive strengths in a vital priority area and to pursue emerging opportunities that are suggested by the state of the field and the availability of funding. Please join me in celebrating this important new endeavor and supporting the exciting work that it will foster in the coming years.


Jamshed Bharucha
Provost and Senior Vice President