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KNOXVILLE — Dr. Gary S. Sayler, Beaman Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee has been appointed the first director of the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Joint Institute for Biological Sciences.

Dr. Gary Sayler
Dr. Gary Sayler
The Joint Institute for Biological Sciences program represents an approximately $15 million investment by the State of Tennessee and UT in joint research and development in biosciences and biotechnology at UT and ORNL. Sayler’s appointment is effective July 1.

This joint institute will focus on deepening our understanding of complex biological systems with applications in biotechnology. The research program will take advantage of shared research activities at three other UT-ORNL joint institutes in advanced materials, neutron sciences and computational sciences.

As director of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences, Sayler will lead the development of its research and development program, including staffing, expanding its programmatic funding base, and establishing important collaborations between UT and ORNL, and with other research institutions worldwide.

Sayler received a doctoral degree in bacteriology and biochemistry in 1974 from the University of Idaho, where he conducted research on utilization of organic carbon in freshwater environments. Sayler completed postdoctoral training in marine microbiology and biodegradation at the University of Maryland before joining the faculty of the University of Tennessee in 1975.

Senior leadership at both ORNL and UT praised Sayler’s selection to head the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences program.

“Dr. Sayler’s scientific credentials, vision and previous leadership experience make him the ideal person to lead JIBS during this important phase for the institute,” said Dr. Reinhold Mann, ORNL associate laboratory director for biological and environmental sciences.

“The joint institutes are a major collaborative effort between UT and ORNL that will bring together scientists from both organizations and attract the best researchers in the world to solve important scientific and societal problems,” added Dr. David Millhorn, UT vice president for research. “I am confident that Dr. Sayler will provide the leadership to make this important collaboration extremely successful.”

UT president John Petersen said he expects important results for the partner institutions and for the fields of research undertaken.

“The joint institutes focus on areas in which we feel both the university and the lab can be national and international leaders,” Petersen said. “The UT-Oak Ridge partnership is an enormous recruitment advantage for attracting top-flight people who want to work in a university setting but who also want to be able to do their science in first-rate facilities at the nation’s premier national laboratory with excellent support. Our partnership enables us to provide both.

“Then, with nanotechnology combined with biology and computational sciences, you have three fields coalescing into one of the most significant fields in scientific research for the next few decades.”

Construction of a building at ORNL to house the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences program begins in early June 2006. A building housing the Joint Institute for Computational Science at ORNL was completed recently and is now occupied by UT and ORNL scientists. Construction on buildings for a Joint Institute for Neutron Science at ORNL and a Joint Institute for Advanced Material Science at UT is expected to begin in 2007.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by the University of Tennessee and Battelle for the Department of Energy.