GSBS logo
Degrees of Discovery logo

Barton, Blackburn to Serve Jointly as Deans for GSBS 

We are pleased to announce that effective July 1, 2012, Michelle Barton, PhD, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Michael Blackburn, PhD, professor and vice chair in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UTHealth Medical School, have agreed to serve jointly in the position of dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS).

We want to express our sincere gratitude to George Stancel, PhD for his outstanding leadership as GSBS dean for 13 years. We are especially thankful for Dr. Stancel’s leadership during the past year, when he continued to serve as dean while taking on his new role of executive vice president for Academic and Research Affairs at UTHealth.

Dr. Barton earned her PhD in biochemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1989. From 1989 to 1994, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA. Prior to joining the MD Anderson faculty in 2000, she served on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Barton has been a member of the GSBS faculty since her arrival at MD Anderson, and her research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and more recently by two major awards from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Dr. Barton’s research on stem cells, liver regeneration and breast cancer is unified by a focus on chromatic function and roles of tumor suppressor p53 in normal cells. Proteomic and genome-wide approaches in Dr. Barton’s laboratory led to identification of previously unknown p53-protein partners in stem cells, including a histone reader that negatively regulates p53, co-regulates estrogen receptors and currently is under development by MD Anderson’s Institute for Applied Cancer Sciences as a potential therapeutic target in breast cancer.

Dr. Blackburn earned his PhD in developmental biology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in 1993. From 1993 to1997, he was a NIH postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine. Since 1997, he has been a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UTHealth Medical School and a member of the GSBS faculty. Dr. Blackburn has developed and characterized numerous models designed to examine the contribution of endogenous adenosine to the regulation of chronic diseases such as COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Collectively, his research efforts have led to the development of novel therapies for the treatment of chronic lung diseases that include adenosine deaminase (ADA) enzyme therapy and the use of specific adenosine receptor antagonists to regulate pulmonary inflammation and remodeling. His work has been continuously funded by the NIH for 15 years, and he has received several awards including an American Lung Association Career Development Award, and a Young Investigator Award from the American Asthma Foundation.

Strengths in both research and education are needed to be an effective leader of a major graduate school, and Drs. Barton and Blackburn have been outstanding and successful in both arenas. Together, they have trained 24 GSBS students and have received numerous teaching and mentoring awards, including the Paul E. Darlington Mentor Award.

Both Dr. Barton and Dr. Blackburn have directed GSBS graduate programs (Genes and Development, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, respectively), and have served on virtually every standing committee, including serving as chair of the GSBS Executive Committee. The faculty has recognized their abilities to lead, having elected both Dr. Blackburn (2009) and Dr. Barton (2012) to serve as president of the Graduate School faculty.

The partnership between UTHealth and MD Anderson enables this unique and exceptional opportunity for joint leadership by two of our most outstanding, respected, and valued faculty members. We are fully committed to their joint leadership to continue developing GSBS into one of the top educational programs in the nation. We are confident that this partnership in the administration and support of GSBS will further enhance its mission of graduate education and research.

Please join us in congratulating Drs. Barton and Blackburn on their new leadership responsibility.

Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D.
The University of Texas
Health Science Center at Houston

Ronald DePinho, M.D.
The University of Texas
MD Anderson Cancer Center