MBL Director Joan Ruderman Announces Decision Not to Seek Re-appointment

WOODS HOLE, Mass.—Joan Ruderman, president and director of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), announced May 19 that she will not seek reappointment once her current term at the University of Chicago-affiliated lab expires in October. She agreed to stay in her position at least through the fall during the search for a new director.


Joan V. Ruderman, 14th Director of the Marine Biological Laboratory

Ruderman first came to the lab as a post-doctoral researcher in 1974 when she took the MBL’s renowned summer Embryology course — an experience that inspired her research for decades. Her work at the lab culminated with her appointment as director in 2012, when she helped lead the successful effort to form an affiliation between the MBL and the University of Chicago.

“I am extremely proud of the role I have played in helping to ensure that the future of the MBL is as bright, if not brighter than its remarkable past, and look forward, with you, to watching the MBL flourish in the years to come,” Ruderman wrote in a letter to the MBL community.

University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, who also serves as Chair of the MBL Board, sent a message praising Ruderman’s record of commitment to the lab.

“Joan’s relationship with and service to the MBL has been admirably long and extraordinarily devoted,” Zimmer wrote. He said that as leader of the lab, Ruderman “steered the MBL through a complex period into a mutually beneficial partnership with the University of Chicago.”

The search for a new director will begin immediately, Zimmer said.  He said he expects to be aided in the process by a scientific advisory committee to include scientists from the MBL, University faculty, and faculty or investigators from other institutions who are familiar with MBL through the lab’s summer educational and research programs.

“Our objective of course is to attract the strongest possible leader to the MBL, someone who aspires to help further distinguish the quality and impact of its research and educational programs and who has the demonstrated experience to develop and implement strategic plans and initiatives in a scientific and educational context,” Zimmer wrote.

Before becoming director of the MBL, Ruderman was the Marion V. Nelson Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School. Her extensive experience at the MBL included service on the MBL Board of Trustees (1986–2012) and its Executive Committee (2008–2012), and as Speaker of the MBL Corporation from 2008–2012.

In her letter to the MBL community, Ruderman said she was proud of their hard work that went into building the affiliation with UChicago and moving forward on its implementation.

“With the essential task of transition now complete, the MBL faces the challenge of crafting and implementing a strategy that will make the most of new scientific opportunities and realize the potential of our affiliation with the University of Chicago,” Ruderman wrote. “I believe now is the time to identify MBL’s next generation of leadership, who will work with the MBL community and the University to further develop and implement plans for MBL’s future.”


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.