You may know George Grills as one of the scientists who started up the Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics. Perhaps you know him as the director of DNA sequencing there, where his team participated in the human and mouse genome projects. Or maybe he’s familiar as codirector of the DNA microarray facility, or as director of protein microarrays instead.
For someone who held so many positions at once, it’s hard to imagine that one of the reasons Grills packed up his Cambridge ways and headed to Cornell University was to “have a broader mandate.” But Grills, who started at Cornell in February, isn’t kidding. “I enjoy having a lot of things on my plate,” he says.
And that he will in his dual roles as director of operations of core facilities in life sciences and director of advanced technologies. He’ll oversee the half a dozen university-funded core facilities — labs handle DNA sequencing, genotyping, transgenic animal construction, imaging, and proteomics — as well as new ones scheduled to open soon, including ones for flow cytometry and protein production. Part of that job involves listening to the university research community to get a better sense of which technologies will be important to bring to campus. He will also be responsible for scoping out new technologies and working to develop new tools and improve upon existing ones. To that end, Grills will have his own lab space for advanced technology assessment and a group dedicated to poking around under the hood of the latest gadgets.
Grills’ recruitment to Cornell and his directorships fall under a $600 million New Life Sciences Initiative that flowed out of an earlier genomics program at the university, he says. As part of the initiative, Cornell is recruiting 100 new faculty members as well as putting up a $150 million building to house “a lot of these new types of technologies,” Grills says.
His training as a molecular biologist has stood him well during his career. Grills began his career at Columbia, after which he went to the American Museum of Natural History where he helped set up the institution’s sequencing core. Then he was off to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and oversaw the DNA sequencing, oligo synthesis, and DNA microarray cores.
— Meredith Salisbury