Johns Hopkins University: Cynthia Wolberger Named Director of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry

Structural biologist Cynthia Wolberger, Ph.D., has been appointed director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The first woman to lead the department, she will take over the director position from Mario Amzel, Ph.D., who is stepping down after 15 years of leading the department during his more than 50-year career at Johns Hopkins.

Wolberger leads a laboratory that focuses on proteins that package DNA into neat, compact bundles within a cell. These structures control which genes are “on” or “off” and can repair broken DNA. Her laboratory’s research is unraveling how these proteins are called into action and the way they control how and when genes are turned on and off in a cell. Insights from her work have helped identify drugs to treat leukemia and other cancers.

Wolberger received an undergraduate degree in physics at Cornell University and a doctorate in biophysics from Harvard University. Following postdoctoral training at the University of California San Francisco, she came to Johns Hopkins as a postdoctoral fellow and joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1991.

Wolberger has received numerous awards, including the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award from the Protein Society and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research from the American Association for Cancer Research. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as the Biophysical Society.

Wolberger has mentored numerous Johns Hopkins graduate students and fellows, and is a past co-director of the Johns Hopkins Epigenetics Center of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. She is on the editorial boards of numerous journals and is a senior editor of eLife. She is also a member of many advisory boards and review groups for National Institutes of Health study sections, National Science Foundation panels and foundation grants, and she has helped organize numerous scientific conferences. She has authored more than 118 journal articles.

Her goals for the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry include recruiting faculty members who are working in new and exciting areas of biophysics and structural biology, as well as creating a biophysics technology hub that will facilitate biophysics research across the university.