Cooper named interim head of biochemistry and molecular biophysics

John A. Cooper, MD, PhD, has been named interim head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, announced the appointment, which will become effective Nov. 15.


Cooper is a professor in the university’s Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. He also served on the steering committee of the Biochemistry Graduate Program from 2003-07 and has been the program’s director since 2008.

“We are pleased Dr. Cooper will be filling this role,” Shapiro says. “Under his leadership, we anticipate that the department will continue its great scientific tradition and play a key role in school-wide research and in graduate and medical education.”

Cooper succeeds Thomas E. Ellenberger, DVM, PhD, the Raymond H. Wittcoff Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, who has served as head of the department since 2005. Ellenberger is stepping down to focus on research and will remain in the department at Washington University.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the department and the School of Medicine in this new capacity,” Cooper says. “I have always had great respect and admiration for the faculty of this department, who have an outstanding record of research, teaching and service.”

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics has a long and distinguished history at the School of Medicine, and its achievements include pioneering research by eight Nobel Prize winners.

Cooper, who is also a member of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University, studies how different types of cells use a primary component of their skeletal system known as the actin network. The actin network is involved with vital cellular functions including cell division and movement. A cell’s ability to move is important to a broad range of biomedical concerns, including understanding how immune system cells pursue disease-causing invaders and how metastasizing cancer cells migrate from a tumor.

Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Brown University in 1977 and a medical degree and doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1982 and 1983, respectively. He has published more than 100 scientific papers and review articles and has served on the editorial boards of several prestigious scientific journals.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.