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July 17, 2000

Biology Department reorganization creates two new departments

By Tim Stephens

The Department of Biology has reorganized into two new departments: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Charles L. (Leo) Ortiz, who had been chair of the Biology Department and now chairs the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, said the reorganization will make administration and planning easier for the two new departments.

"The impetus behind this had to do with the Biology Department at UCSC becoming very large and biology as a discipline becoming very diverse," Ortiz said. "Administratively, it is much easier to deal with it in two separate departments."

Students are not likely to notice any changes in the undergraduate and graduate programs in biology, he said. The undergraduate curriculum and the various biology majors currently offered will continue to be administered jointly by the two departments. (Several new biology majors were established recently [view previous Currents article].)

The graduate programs of the new departments will also remain much the same, since they already existed as two separate tracks within the old Biology Department.

"I suspect that no one will notice much difference," Ortiz said.

UCSC is not alone in the move to split the traditional biology department into two or more smaller departments, said Manuel Ares, chair of the new Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. "This is very common at universities across the country," Ares said.

The most significant effect of the change is to make planning for the future much easier, Ares said. He noted that the reorganization does not result in any new staff resources, and that the department staff will continue to work much as they did before, both within the two new departments and together to administer joint programs.

"We don't see this as a split, really, but more a division of labor that reinforces the strengths of our programs," Ares said.

The research programs of faculty in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology are concentrated in several overlapping areas: population and community ecology; evolutionary biology; physiology and behavior, especially of marine mammals; and systematics and biodiversity.

In the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, faculty research interests fall into the general areas of cell biology, developmental genetics, neurobiology, plant molecular biology, RNA molecular biology, and structural biology.

"The stereotype is that the molecular biologists are the lab rats and the other biologists get to work outside and get suntans," Ares said. "But seriously, there are differences in terms of the kinds of resource issues we face and other factors that will affect how we plan for the future."

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