Stanislas Leibler Appointed to the Faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study

Stanislas Leibler

Simons Foundation Provides Major Funding for Joint Initiative with The Rockefeller University

Stanislas Leibler has been appointed to the Faculty of the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study, effective April 1, 2009.  Currently the Gladys T. Perkin Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Living Matter at The Rockefeller University, Leibler will continue to hold this appointment in conjunction with his professorship at the Institute.  This appointment is part of a new joint initiative in quantitative and theoretical biology with Rockefeller, established through a $10 million gift from the Simons Foundation that is divided equally between the Institute and Rockefeller.

 The Institute has also received an additional $10 million challenge grant from the Simons Foundation to add to the permanent endowment of the Simons Center for Systems Biology at the Institute, established in 2004 and named in recognition of major support from the Foundation.  The Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences has provided $1 million, representing the first gift to match the challenge.

Peter Goddard, Director of the Institute, stated, "The Institute is pleased to welcome Stan Leibler to the Faculty.  The quality and depth of Stan's research and his influential experimental and theoretical work will contribute greatly to our work in systems biology.  This new initiative with the Rockefeller University will foster important and distinctive contributions to research in biology, and will enable us to expand greatly what we are doing in this field, helping the Institute to continue to train the next generation of life scientists."

The new initiative builds on the complementary strengths of the Institute and Rockefeller, a world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics.  It will involve biologists, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists exploring quantitative and theoretical approaches to biological problems.  As part of this collaboration, the Institute and Rockefeller will jointly appoint visiting professors and graduate and postdoctoral fellows, fund early stage high-risk projects and develop joint seminars, workshops and lectures.  A series of annual conferences will be established as part of this initiative, to be named in honor of Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel Laureate in medicine and Rockefeller's President from 1978 to 1990, and mathematician John von Neumann, a Faculty member at the Institute from 1933 to 1957. Lederberg's and von Neumann's work on artificial intelligence, expert systems, self-reproduction and computational aspects of biological systems will serve as a model for this initiative.

"This unique initiative, which draws on the strength of both Rockefeller and the Institute for Advanced Study, will open new doors to studying complex biological problems," says Paul Nurse, Rockefeller University's president. "By combining techniques from several different scientific disciplines, the effort will be well positioned to make breakthroughs in how we understand key processes of life and disease."

The $10 million gift from the Simons Foundation has made possible this initiative with Rockefeller, including the appointment of Stanislas Leibler, and is intended to result in fruitful collaborations and advancements within the field.  The additional $10 million challenge grant to the Institute from the Foundation will enable the Institute to permanently endow the Simons Center for Systems Biology to ensure the most favorable and productive environment for the gifted scientists who come to work at the Center each year.  The Foundation, established in 1994 by James H. Simons, Founder and President of Renaissance Technologies Corporation, and his wife Marilyn Hawrys Simons, was created to support advanced research in science and mathematics.  James Simons, a distinguished mathematician, a former Member in the School of Mathematics (1972-73) and a Trustee of the Institute since 2002, has been actively engaged in the intellectual life and development of the Institute.

The Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences has provided $1 million toward the Foundation's challenge grant. Founded in 2003 by Charles Simonyi, Chairman of the Institute's Board of Trustees, the Fund supports organizations that demonstrate excellence in arts, science and education.

The appointment of Stanislas Leibler is at the core of this initiative.  Trained as a physicist, Leibler has made unique and important contributions to theoretical and experimental biology, and has been successful in extending the interface between physics and biology to develop new solutions and approaches to problems.  Even the simplest of organisms, such as bacteria, are capable of processing information in a highly sophisticated manner, adapting to varying environments and evolving new functions.  Leibler is interested in the quantitative description of microbial systems, both on cellular and population levels. He is developing both the theoretical and experimental methods necessary for conducting studies on the collective behavior of biomolecules, cells and organisms. By selecting a number of basic questions on how simple genetic and biochemical networks function in bacteria, he and his laboratory colleagues are beginning to understand how individual components can give rise to complex, collective phenomena.

"I am delighted to join the Faculty of the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute," said Leibler. "Both the Institute for Advanced Study and the Rockefeller University are known for their scientific excellence and their deep attachement to academic freedom. I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to continue my research in these institutions and to participate in their new interdisciplinary initiative."

Leibler did his undergraduate studies in physics at the University of Warsaw and was awarded an M.S. in theoretical physics in 1979 from the University of Paris.  Also at the University of Paris, Leibler earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1981, and a second doctorate in physics in 1984. He became a tenured research fellow at the Centre d'Etudes de Saclay in 1984, where he did his early research, and remained there until 1992. Leibler was also a Visiting Research Associate at Cornell University from 1985 to 1987. Leibler moved to Princeton University in 1992 as a Professor in the Department of Physics, becoming a Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology in 1993. He was a visiting scientist at the European Molecular Biological Laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1997-98. From 2000 to 2001, Leibler was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and he came to Rockefeller in 2001, becoming a Tri-Institutional Professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in 2003.

About the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of approximately 30, and it ensures the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 41 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.