Robert W. Williams, PhD, Appointed to Governor’s Chair

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Steve J. Schwab MD, executive dean of the College of Medicine at the UTHSC, and David Millhorn, PhD, executive vice president for the UT system, announce the appointment of Robert W. Williams, PhD, to the Governor’s Chair in Computational Genomics.

Steve J. Schwab MD, executive dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and David Millhorn, PhD, executive vice president for the University of Tennessee system, announce the appointment of Robert W. Williams, PhD, to the Governor’s Chair in Computational Genomics at UTHSC and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The appointment is the first Governor’s Chair in this area of specialty to be awarded to a researcher on the UTHSC and ORNL campuses. Dr. Williams is also the Dunavant Chair of Developmental Genetics in Pediatrics and professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UTHSC (Memphis campus).

Governor’s Chairs are prestigious appointments established by the University of Tennessee (UT) and ORNL. The appointments are given to leaders in science to develop and direct research programs that benefit both institutions. Dr. Williams’ appointment to the Governor’s Chair is a milestone in a long and highly productive collaboration between UT and ORNL in genetics and biomedical research. Awarding a Governor’s Chair to a scientist at UTHSC will solidify and enrich collaborations between UTHSC and world-class research programs at ORNL in computer science, biology, materials science, and energy.

Over the past decade, Dr. Williams has worked closely with colleagues at ORNL in the Systems Genetics and Computational Biology groups. “We have already accomplished great things by collaborating with ORNL at the interface of genetics, radiation biology, computer science, and health science,” Dr. Williams said. “This appointment provides me a much better opportunity to expand collaborations between ORNL and UTHSC. Bridging missions can be highly rewarding. The recent success of the Tennessee Mouse Genome Consortium is one example, and we need to replicate this success,” he stated.

Dr. Williams earned his doctoral degree in physiology from the University of California, Davis. After a fellowship in neuroscience at Yale University, he joined UTHSC as an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. Dr. Williams is internationally known for his work in genetics, neuroscience and vision research. He has authored more than 200 publications and book chapters, and is a member of numerous editorial and scientific boards, including editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Neurogenomics. He is also the past-president of the International Society of Behavioral Genetics and the founding director of the Complex Trait Consortium. Dr. Williams is one of the founders of the Tennessee Mouse Genome Consortium, a collaboration between UT, ORNL, Vanderbilt University, and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He is currently the director of the Center for Integrative and Translational Genomics (CITG), a new UT statewide effort to ensure that fundamental advances in genetics have a near-term impact on human health care.

“This is an exciting joint venture between UTHSC and ORNL. Our ability to collaborate and work to each others’ strengths is critical to advancing the science of genomics,” stated Dr Schwab.

The mission of Oak Ridge National Laboratory is to provide solutions to America’s grand scientific challenges. Located in Oak Ridge, Tenn., ORNL is the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory. Since April 2000, ORNL has been managed through a partnership between UT and Battelle, an international science and technology enterprise that explores emerging areas of science, develops and commercializes technology, and manages laboratories for customers.