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Vital Signs

A chair, but not a beach chair, for Barlowe

By Amos Esty

Some people relaxed on the the beach. Charles Barlowe, Ph.D., spent his summer taking on new responsibilities. On July 1, Barlowe became the chair of DMS's Department of Biochemistry, succeeding Ta Yuan Chang, Ph.D., who had led the program since 2000.

According to Barlowe, it has been a smooth transition. "The department is humming along," he says, and has a strong research portfolio. Yet he sees an opportunity for the department to develop new strengths by exploring the intersections where biochemistry meets related fields, such as computer science, engineering, and medicine.

Prior to assuming the chair, Barlowe served as Dartmouth College's dean of graduate studies, a position that meshed with his interest in interdisciplinary work. "That was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn a lot about this institution and a lot about different departments and disciplines," he says.

Feel: Barlowe realized as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary that he was curious about scientific questions. After earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry, he went on to the University of Texas at Austin for his Ph.D. He says he chose that school because of the research opportunities it offered and because the "hustle and bustle" of the large campus would be a change from the small-college feel of William and Mary.

It was at Texas that Barlowe narrowed his focus to biochemistry and cell biology. After finishing there, he took a postdoctoral position at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Fellowship.

In 1994, Barlowe arrived at DMS. Dartmouth, he says, combined the best of the two types of institutions he had attended. "I liked the community at a small liberal arts college and I liked the community at major research universities," he says, "and I thought Dartmouth had both of those qualities."

Transit: Two years later, Barlowe was named a Pew Scholar, and in 2007 he received a prestigious National Institutes of Health MERIT Award for his research on the intracellular transit of proteins. He was promoted to full professor in 2004 but still teaches a class on biochemistry and metabolism for first-year medical students. "It is an intellectually challenging course," he says. "I'm glad I have been able to continue teaching."

Post: One aspect of science that's always fascinated Barlowe is "the excitement of identifying and solving problems." It's an interest that will probably prove useful in his new post. He says the challenges ahead include finding funding to bring in new faculty and to support their development, but he looks forward to taking them on. His role, he adds, will be "a mixture of continuing things that we do well and constantly asking ourselves what we can do to make the department better."

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