Cooper named head of biochemistry and molecular biophysics

John Cooper, MD, PhD, has been named head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the School of Medicine.
John Cooper, MD, PhD, has been named head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at the School of Medicine. Photo: John Cooper

John A. Cooper, MD​, PhD, has been named 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.

“I thank John for his outstanding service and dedication in leading the department as the interim head,” Shapiro said. “We look forward to working with John in the coming months and years as he leads a department with a rich history and tradition to even greater prominence and achievement.”

The department has a long and distinguished history of scientific accomplishments at the School of Medicine, including pioneering research by eight Nobel Prize winners, a legacy that began with Carl and Gerty Cori in 1947, who were honored for work describing carbohydrate metabolism.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue serving the department and the School of Medicine in this capacity,” Cooper said. “The distinguished history of the faculty, which continues to this day, makes this leadership role a remarkable privilege. I look forward to continuing to assist the department in its critical roles of research, education and service to the School of Medicine and the university.”

Cooper is a professor of cell biology and physiology and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. His research is focused on understanding how cells move and change shape. Cellular movement plays important roles in disease, especially in understanding how cancer cells spread to other parts of the body and how the body’s immune cells pursue and eliminate foreign invaders. Much of his work has focused on understanding the cellular skeletal system of filaments and motors, based on actin, which provides the machinery for cells to change shape, divide and move.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Cooper is also a member of Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Cooper served on the steering committee of the Biochemistry Graduate Program from 2003-07 and was the program’s director from 2008-11. He received the Distinguished Faculty Award for Graduate Student Teaching from the School of Medicine in 2010. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council (ECFC) and represented ECFC to the Faculty Senate. He completed the Academic Medical Leadership Development Program sponsored by Washington University and BJC in 2014.

Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry magna cum laude from Brown University in 1977. He attended Johns Hopkins University as student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, earning a medical degree in 1982 with election to Alpha Omega Alpha and a doctorate in cell biology in 1983. Cooper came to Washington University in 1984 as a resident in anatomic pathology. He received postdoctoral training in the Department of Biochemistry and then joined the faculty in Cell Biology and Physiology. He was a Lucille P. Markey Scholar and an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association.

A prolific research scientist, Cooper has published more than 100 scientific papers and review articles. He has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, on grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other funding agencies and on several committees for professional societies, including the American Society for Cell Biology.

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 sixth 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.
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