Martin Chalfie and Wafaa El-Sadr Named University Professors

May 07, 2013

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am very pleased to announce that I have appointed two of Columbia’s most admired and accomplished faculty members, Martin Chalfie, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences, and Wafaa El-Sadr, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine, to the rank of University Professor.  This is Columbia’s highest academic honor, one that Marty and Wafaa each richly deserves by virtue of remarkable scholarship and distinguished service over many years to Columbia and to society.  When these appointments become effective on July 1, 2013, there will be a total of thirteen current faculty members who hold this special honor.

Professor Chalfie, a Columbia faculty member since 1982, shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his introduction of green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a biological marker.  GFP is now a fundamental tool in the fields of cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, and neurobiology, and has been used to study basic biological principles and to investigate disease processes in model organisms.  As many classes of Columbia undergraduate and graduate students have learned firsthand, Marty is a generous teacher and mentor.  He played a crucial role in strengthening the Department of Biological Sciences as its chair from 2007 to 2010.

Lending his voice as a Nobel Laureate to national and global debates, Marty has been a persistent and vocal advocate for basic research and training in the sciences.  He also has served on a variety of scientific advisory boards.  A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Professor Chalfie has earned the respect of the University’s students and faculty for more than thirty years as the consummate scientist, teacher, and colleague.

Wafaa El-Sadr has been not only a valued member of the Columbia community for a quarter of a century, but also a true citizen of the world.  She joined the faculty of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1988 and ten years later became Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at the Mailman School of Public Health, of which she is an alumna.  An international expert in epidemiology and research about the prevention and management of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases, Dr. El-Sadr began her career as the HIV/AIDS epidemic took hold in this country.

After developing successful methods for responding to HIV/AIDS through groundbreaking research and innovative models of care in her own community as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Harlem Hospital, Dr. El-Sadr became a renowned leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS by arming health care systems in Africa and Central Asia with effective strategies for confronting the impact of the epidemic.  Wafaa is a 2008 MacArthur Fellow, a member of the Institute of Medicine, and director of both ICAP (International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs) and the Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiologic Research.  Like Professor Chalfie and our other honored University Professors, Wafaa’s academic career has been a model of dedication to Columbia and to our public service mission, both locally and globally.

In everything they do, Marty Chalfie and Wafaa El-Sadr embody the core principles of our great University: they have lived their lives in the constant pursuit of knowledge and innovation that betters the human condition.  Please join me in recognizing their accomplishments and celebrating their respective appointments as Columbia’s newest University Professors.


Lee C. Bollinger