Quatrano named interim dean of Arts & Sciences

Ralph S. Quatrano, Ph.D., the Spencer T. Olin Professor and chair of the Washington University Department of Biology, has been named interim dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences effective July 1, 2008, according to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

He succeeds Executive Vice Chancellor Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. Macias will relinquish his duty as Arts & Sciences dean on June 30, 2008, and become provost of Washington University on Jan. 1, 2009, following a six-month sabbatical.

Quatrano will serve as interim dean of Arts & Sciences until a regular term dean is appointed. Plans are under way to begin a comprehensive search for the next regular term dean. Quatrano takes the interim position after having planned to step down as chair on June 30, 2008, and then take a leave.


“Ralph has been an important leader in Arts & Sciences since joining Washington University nearly a decade ago,” said Wrighton. “Throughout his professional career, he has demonstrated a strong ability to connect people and ideas and guide them towards a common goal.

Ralph will benefit from the strong foundation that Ed Macias has built in Arts & Sciences, and he will be a key leader in implementing plans for the future that have been developed. I am grateful to Ralph for agreeing to serve Washington University in this significant way.”

Quatrano, who came to Washington University in 1998 to chair the biology department, oversees one of the nation’s most highly regarded biology departments with exceptional strengths in a number of areas including the plant sciences. He directed the hiring of 12 new faculty members as chair and recently served as Director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.

His research group, comprising graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, often collaborates with Washington University School of Medicine researchers as well as with scientists from Monsanto and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

He is internationally known for his work on model plant systems to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling seed development and how cells acquire polarity. More recently he has used the moss Physcomitrella patens to study the mechanism of drought tolerance and took a leadership role in a consortium of more than 100 international researchers and the Joint Genome Institute of the Department of Energy to sequence and annotate the moss genome. This latter effort culminated in a major publication earlier this year in Science with Quatrano as corresponding author.

Since 1970, Quatrano has been a visiting professor or investigator at five different institutions, including most recently the University of Naples, Cambridge University, and the University of Leeds as well as with Stanford University and the University of Washington. He has given invited seminars at institutions worldwide and has published more than 160 research papers. He has won teaching awards at the undergraduate and graduate levels and has mentored 20 graduate students and 40 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists.

From 1986-89, Quatrano was research manager in molecular biology for DuPont Co., Wilmington Del.

From 1968-1986, Quatrano was a faculty member in botany at Oregon State University, Corvallis. His last two years there he founded and directed the University’s Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology.

He was editor-in-chief of the journal, The Plant Cell, the premier journal of plant biology, elected president of the American Society of Plant Biology, a member of the Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences for the National Science Foundation until 2001, the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Rockefeller Foundation International Program on Rice Biotechnology, and from 1991-98 he was Member on the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science magazine, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

He is a Fellow of the AAAS and the St. Louis Academy of Science as well as an inaugural fellow of the American Society of Plant Biology.

Quatrano earned his bachelor’s in botany with honors from Colgate University in 1962; his master’s in botany from Ohio University, Athens, in 1964; and his doctorate in biology from Yale University in 1968.