NOMIS Awardee Catherine Dulac, along with two other Harvard researchers, have been named University Professors, Harvard’s highest distinction for a faculty member.

A molecular biologist and geneticist studying the brain circuits that control social behaviors in mammals. A sociologist researching the effects of urban inequality, crime, and turning points in people’s lives. An immunologist deciphering the regulation of T cells and how this knowledge can be harnessed to fight cancer and other diseases. All three renowned scholars have been named University Professors, Harvard’s highest distinction for a faculty member.

Catherine Dulac (Photo: Harvard MCB Graphics)

Catherine Dulac, the Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Lee and Ezpeleta Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed the Samuel W. Morris University Professor, which was established by Barbara Morris Caspersen and her husband, Finn M.W. Caspersen, LL.B. ’66, in honor of her father, Samuel W. Morris ’40.

Robert J. Sampson, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences in the FAS, has been named the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, a professorship which was established in 2004 by J. Christopher Flowers ’79, and his wife, Mary H. White, to honor his parents’ devotion to education.

Arlene Sharpe, who has been appointed the Kolokotrones University Professorship, which was established by Wendy and Theo Kolokotrones, M.B.A. ’70, is currently the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology, the chair of the Department of Immunology, and the co-director of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School.

“It is a privilege to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of three individuals whose depth of scholarship and breadth of influence exemplify our University at its very best,” said President Larry Bacow. “Catherine is changing our perceptions of who we are and what governs the things we do; Rob is untangling the threads of circumstance that run through and between our lives; Arlene is making fundamental contributions to understanding disease that lead to new therapies for preserving human health.

“Learning about their research not only in particular but also in comparison has given me a greater appreciation for their excellence and for the dynamics that exist within their fields and among our faculty,” Bacow continued. “I appreciate the rare gift of appointing three University Professors at the same moment — and I am thrilled by the prospect of a world improved by their good efforts.”

All three appointments are effective Jan. 1.

Catherine Dulac

“Being a faculty member at Harvard has allowed me to follow my passion for scientific research and teaching in collaboration with many inspiring colleagues,” said Dulac. “I am intrigued and excited to continue to build on my existing work and creating new collaborations across the various Schools here at Harvard, which this appointment will further help foster.”

Over the past two decades, Dulac has helped transform behavioral neuroscience and contributed to a profound new understanding of how the brain orchestrates responses as a function of sex and physiological state. Her early work on pheromone sensing in rodents changed understanding of the role of olfactory signals in the animals’ behavior.

She has also delved into the neuronal circuits that control parenting and other social behaviors, showing that the circuits are present and active in both sexes, although many of these behaviors are identified as “male” or “female.”

More recently, her laboratory identified the specific brain cell types and neural circuits that coordinate various sickness symptoms during an infection, such as fever, warmth-seeking, and loss of appetite.

Dulac is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and has been honored as a recipient of the Breakthrough Prize (2021), the Society for Neuroscience’s Ralph W. Gerard Award (2019), and the McGovern Institute’s Scolnick Prize (2018). She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society and an Officer of the French Legion d’Honneur. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Paris VI.

Continue reading this Harvard Gazette article: Three new University Professors

Banner photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University