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In a festive ceremony marking the end of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's 14-year quest for its own headquarters, the University formally dedicated the new Sherman Fairchild Biochemistry Building yesterday afternoon.
The 7 Divinity Avenue structure--which professors began to occupy in midsummer--will eventually house as many as 162 departmental instructors and bring nearly all department members together geographically for the first time since the Biochemistry Committee was formed in 1955.
The building will also open up space for the cramped Biology department, allowing it to kick off searches to fill five tenured spots that it has deliberately kept open until more space became available.
Those new positions fall mostly in the Cellular and Developmental Biology (CDB) half of the department, and Biology professors say CDB's desire for autonomy in hiring--as well as in day-to-day operations--from the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) half of the department will also spur Biology's planned division into two departments later this year.
Biochemistry professors have been transferring equipment and personnel from offices scattered throughout the biology and chemistry labs into Fairchild for the past several months, and will continue to do so until the University completes construction of lab space there in mid-winter.
At present, builders have completed nine of ten professorial suites--each of which occupies 3,000 to 3,500 square feet in the 100,000 square foot building-and have polished off 12 of the 16 lab benches that each professor is entitled to for his staff.
The building--which Mark S. Ptashne, chairman of the department, yesterday called "a perfect home for our department"--also includes office and seminar space for professors, along with a lecture hall and an area for student services.
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The lecture hall served as the site of yesterday's dedication extravaganza. Approximately 200 people--including professors, administrators, students, and research assistants clad in white medical gowns--crowded into the hall for a two hour series of congratulatory speeches by President Bok, Dean Rosovsky, past and present department members, and James D. Watson, director of Harvard's Cold Springs Laboratories and a discoverer of the structure of DNA.
An estimated 250 others, turned away at the door, watched the ceremony on videotape in the Yenching Lecture Room across the street.
Congratulating the department on its "beautiful new labs," Rosovsky called the decision to construct the new building "a strong vote of confidence in Harvard biochemistry." But the dean also stressed that science professors should be aware of "the primacy of University obligations"-an apparent allusion to new guidelines governing disclosure of professors' outside activities, approved this week by the Faculty Council, which Rosovsky chairs.
Bok joined Rosovsky and Ptashne in thanking the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, Inc. for its $5 million grant to the University towards the new building. Matching funds from a National Cancer Institute grant will finance the rest.
Calling the building "a marvelous gift," Bok urged members of the department to "have a glorious chapter in Harvard scientific history." He stressed the difficulty of funding scientific innovations and said it was "a very serious thing" that the nation's "finest department of Biochemistry was in danger of eroding for lack of funds."
"Our willingness to build this building under very-difficult conditions is the most tangible gesture we can make" of Harvard's commitment to science, Bok said, urging professors to set examples of "quality and integrity."
Watson, the keynote speaker, traced his involvement with the Biology department beginning in 1955. Saying that "Harvard had been filled by famous men, and I wanted to be one of them," Watson described his participation in the growth of Harvard biochemistry and said the Fairchild building should help give undergraduates a better understanding of the discipline
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