October 25, 2014

Joan V. Ruderman

President and Director

Joan RudermanJoan V. Ruderman is the 14th director of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Previously, she was the Marion V. Nelson Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. She also served as Senior Science Advisor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Ruderman received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from M.I.T., both in biology. After postdoctoral work, also at M.I.T., she joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School in 1976. She moved to Duke University in 1986 and returned to Harvard in 1989.

Among her national leadership roles, Ruderman has served on the Scientific Advisory Board of Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at M.I.T. and the Medical Advisory Board of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Ellison Medical Foundation (2013-).

A longtime associate of the MBL, Ruderman served on the MBL Board of Trustees (1986-2012) and its Executive Committee (2008-2012) and was Speaker of the MBL Corporation from 2008-2012. Her affiliation with the MBL began in 1974 when, the summer after receiving her Ph.D., she took the MBL’s Embryology course. She subsequently taught in that course for several years and then, in 1980, returned as a visiting researcher, working at the MBL for most summers thereafter until 2000.

Ruderman is best known for her work on fertilization and on the molecular mechanisms that regulate mitosis, the last part of the cell division cycle. At the MBL in 1979, Ruderman, Tim Hunt, and Eric Rosenthal, working with clam eggs, first observed the synthesis of proteins later called the cyclins, key regulators of the cell division cycle. In seminal work at the MBL in the 1980s and 1990s, Ruderman’s group cloned and expressed the first cyclin genes; demonstrated that cyclins regulate the cell division cycle; and discovered how cyclins work at the molecular level. With Avram Hershko, she identified and purified components of the ubiquitin ligase system that is responsible for the programmed destruction of cyclins during mitotic exit. More recently, Ruderman’s research has investigated environmental contaminants that mimic estrogen. She has also focused on the role of water in areas ranging from human health to climate change.

Ruderman’s scientific contributions have been recognized by her election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Society for Microbiology, as well as by the New York University/Dart Award in Biotechnology.

She is married to Gerald Ruderman, a partner in an engineering firm involved in renewable energy projects. Their daughter, Zoe, is a journalist.