July 22, 2019
Veronica Hinman, an expert in the field of evolutionary and developmental biology and a member of the Carnegie Mellon University faculty since 2006, has been named head of the Department of Biological Sciences in the Mellon College of Science.
The Department of Biological Sciences is known for its leadership in fundamental and life sciences research and education. The department focuses on fields that stand to have a significant impact in the science being done today and in the future, including molecular biology and genetics, developmental biology, cell biology, neuroscience, microbiology, biochemistry and biophysics, genomics and computational biology.
“Biology is in an exciting period of transformation,” said Hinman, who will also become the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences. “There are a wealth of new tools and approaches being developed by biologists, including those here at Carnegie Mellon, that will lead to opportunities to make substantial headway into some of the most important issues facing humanity today: improving health and quality of life and managing and caring for our natural world in an ever-changing environment.”
As department head, Hinman also plans to further connect the department with other departments across the university to foster interdisciplinary research and education in the biological sciences.
“People are tackling problems in the life sciences across many departments at Carnegie Mellon. It’s not just biological sciences — it’s engineering, computer science, social sciences, public policy and many more. Biology is a truly interdisciplinary field that has a natural place at Carnegie Mellon,” said Hinman. “I’m looking forward to strengthening existing interactions, developing new opportunities for life scientists to connect to solve critical problems and training the next generation of committed citizens and scientists who will continue our work.”
Hinman’s research focuses on the evolution of developmental mechanisms, focusing on gene regulatory networks (GRNs), the complex pathways that control the expression of the genes that are present at the beginning of most organisms’ lives. How these genes are expressed results in the vast diversity of life that is present on Earth today. Using echinoderms, including starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins as models, Hinman searches to understand how GRNs control cell fate during development and regeneration.
Hinman earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1989, a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1994 and a doctoral degree in zoology in 2000 from the University of Queensland in Australia. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology in 2006, she joined the Biological Sciences faculty. She also a member of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Computational Biology and the Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology.