Bio/Bio Welcomes Our New Department Head!
Dr. Josh Wand took over as head of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station beginning August 1.
Dr. Wand joins Texas A&M from the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as the Benjamin Rush professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the Perelman School of Medicine. While at the University of Pennsylvania, he taught extensively at both the undergraduate- and graduate-levels. He also was a section leader in a clinical case-based introduction to biochemistry offered to first-year medical students. His research over the years has focused on the influence of the physical properties of proteins and their function, with an emphasis on how the internal structure of protein molecules fluctuates over time. This work has revealed a previously unappreciated aspect of proteins that promises to generate new applications of protein chemistry, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. “There is a revolution in the drug industry- instead of using small molecules, scientists are increasingly using proteins as drugs,” he said. “A major attraction of coming to Texas A&M is figuring out how to take advantage of what we’ve found about how the structure of proteins changes with time to develop a new avenue for drug discovery.” In addition to his department head duties, Wand will continue his research at Texas A&M looking at the intricacies of how to manipulate protein recognition of other proteins and is looking forward to teaching. “I would like to teach third-year biochemistry to undergraduates, but I will also be teaching graduate courses in biophysics,” he said.
At the University of Pennsylvania, he served as the chair of the Graduate Group for Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics for 10 years, coordinating with 75 faculty and also constructing the graduate curriculum. He also incorporated undergraduates within his research groups to work alongside postdoctoral associates and graduate students. Considering this one of his strongest undergraduate contributions, Wand said he has seen many of these students go on to professional or graduate school. “Texas A&M has, all in one place, a lot of the things that I have liked at the various institutions where I have been on the faculty,” Wand said. “The Texas A&M Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics has a very vigorous and diverse research effort that is combined with an unusually broad undergraduate program. It is exciting to have the opportunity to lead this department.”
Wand is a prestigious Fellow of both the American Physical Society and the Biophysical Society. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biophysical Society and the Protein Society. He has been plenary and keynote speaker and lecturer at dozens of meetings worldwide and holds a high profile in protein biophysics in general and as a leader in biological nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which is his main research tool.
Joining Dr. Wand is his wife, Dr. Cecilia Tommos, who will be a full professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. She focuses her research on protein engineering, protein film voltammetry and spectroscopic tolls to study high-potential (proton coupled) electron transfer processes. Both Dr. Wand and Dr. Tommos will be running their lab on the third floor of the NMR building. Wand earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in chemistry from Carleton University in Ontario, Canada, and his doctoral degree in biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. Tommos earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Stockholm University and doctoral degree from Stockholm University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.
We are excited that they have joined our department and look forward to working with them both!