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New Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology Chair

Joel Griffitts

BYU College of Life Sciences Dean James P. Porter announces the appointment of Joel Griffitts as the new chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology effective July 1, 2020. Griffitts replaces Richard Robison, who has served as department chair since 2014.

“Joel Griffitts is a successful and prolific researcher and an excellent teacher,” Dean Porter says. “I look forward to watching him build upon the foundation created by Rich Robison as he leads the department to even greater heights.”

Griffitts maintains specific interest in molecular processes in bacteria and teaching about patterns of discovery and scientific communication. His research seeks to understand how bacteria deal with environmental stress, compete with neighboring microbes, and communicate with symbiotic plants. He has received multiple awards and honors including the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the NSF Mid-Career Investigator Award, and the White House Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

With a strong focus on providing students with leading-edge research experiences, Griffitts has devoted much of his time to graduate-level teaching and training, serving as chair of the department’s graduate development committee since 2012. He has also taught undergraduates in courses designed to integrate molecular-level phenomena, methods of discovery, and science writing.

“Having taught our most advanced students for several years now, what I miss is witnessing our newest undergraduates at that moment of realization about the elegance of living systems and hearing that inevitable follow-up question: How do we know all this?” Griffitts says. “My success as chair will be measured by how well I can fuel these moments of realization and help students understand how discovery works.”

Griffitts graduated with a BS in biological sciences from Stanford University and a PhD in biological sciences from the University of California, San Diego.

In expressing gratitude for Robison’s contributions, Dean Porter says, “Under his able leadership the department has flourished. Enrollments in the department’s programs have steadily increased. Students have benefited from improvements in curriculum, mentored research, and other experiential learning opportunities. Robison has been a selfless citizen and will be missed as he returns to his teaching and research responsibilities.”