Winter 2018

An Eye to the Future

New Sackler School dean Daniel Jay strives to train graduates for a range of biomedical careers.

By Courtney Hollands

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Photo: Anna Miller

Daniel Jay, new dean of the Sackler School for Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University School of Medicine, has carried around the same periodic table since eighth grade. “From a very early age, I had an interest in chemistry,” he said as he pulled the tattered artifact from his wallet. “The periodic table is a way that nature can be ordered, so that means there is an underlying mechanism—this was important to my thinking as an adolescent.”

Today, Jay’s mission for the Sackler School is to train other young scientists toward career excellence in academia and across the biomedical workforce. About 20 percent of the school’s trainees go on to academic positions, and “we need to train the other 80 percent to find their passions and give them the tools they need to compete, excel, and lead,” Jay said. To that end, the school will provide more opportunities for multidisciplinary education, experiential learning, and networking, and help students sharpen communication, presentation, team building, and other skills useful in a corporate environment.

“We are excited about Dan’s arrival in the Sackler dean’s office,” said Ira Herman, School of Medicine professor and director of the Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology program at the Sackler School. “A consummate and creative collaborator, Dan is a devoted mentor and an internationally recognized innovator in the biomedical sciences.”

Jay grew up in Toronto, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and then headed to Harvard University in the early 1980s for his Ph.D. and postdoctoral training. He was an associate professor at Harvard before joining the Tufts faculty in 1998. His research has focused on identifying proteins on cancer cells that are important in invasion of neighboring tissue, which could lead to the development of anti-metastasis drugs. He has published more than 80 papers and mentored more than 60 graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and undergraduates in his lab, and will continue this work as dean.

At Tufts, Jay has chaired and served on several committees and task forces; most recently he directed the postdoctoral affairs office at Tufts. Jay was also a co-director of the school’s National Institutes of Health-funded Post-Baccalaureate Research Program, which offers training for graduates from underserved communities who are interested in research careers.

“Dan has a fresh perspective on how to best equip students to enter the biomedical workplace, and we are eager to watch him flourish in this role,” said medical dean Harris Berman. “He is a man of many interests and brings real enthusiasm to the school.”

One of these interests is art—Jay is an adjunct professor of drawing and painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. The son of a grocer, he grew up sketching at the back of his family’s market. Jay’s first solo show was three decades ago, and for the last five years, his work has explored the intersection of art and science. “I have a scientist’s mind and an artist’s eye in the same head,” he said. Among recent projects are depictions of Tufts’ Talloires campus made with dyes used by 18th-century chemist Claude Louis Berthollet. Jay also created drawings of the Silk Road to be transformed into slides layered with silk protein by a 3D printer—a joint effort with Tufts engineering professor Fiorenzo Omenetto.

Some of Jay’s abstract art has even incorporated elements from his beloved periodic table. “There is something important at the interface of art and science that can benefit both fields, whether it is creativity, thinking outside the box, or problem solving and experimentation,” he said. “I feel truly blessed that I have two passions in my life—art and science—and that not only can I do both, but I can combine them.”

Forward Thinking
Among the fall offerings to help Sackler School students prepare for the future was a workshop with Sarah Cardozo Duncan of Career Strategist, as well as a drug-development course led by Agios Pharmaceuticals’ Stefan Gross, SK01. The Biomedical Entrepreneurs at Tufts series kicked off December 12 with a talk by iSpecimen founder Chris Ianelli, SK97, M00, and a pilot program placing interns at local companies is set to launch this summer.

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