UCSB’s proposed Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering has received a $3 million grant, creating an endowed chair to attract a new administrator.

William K. Bowes, Jr., the founding investor and first chairman of Amgen, Inc., donated the funds to establish the appointed position in memory of his mother, Ruth Garland – one of the first female physicians to graduate from Stanford University in the early 1900s and a pioneer in the study of insulin at the Santa Barbara Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in the 1920s. Currently, UCSB’s Academic Senate is in the process of approving the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering within the on-campus Neuroscience Research Institute.

Professor and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Dept. chair Dennis Clegg said UCSB will use the donation to attract a prominent director.

“The gift will allow us to bring in senior talent in the stem cell field to be director of a new center, which will allow us to build on our rapidly growing program in stem cell research,” Clegg said. “We are really excited about it.”

However, before recruiting a chair, Clegg said the department is awaiting approval from the UCSB administration and Academic Senate.

“We have already had interest in the position from the U.S. and abroad,” Clegg said. “We have already formed a search committee and will be inviting candidates for interviews in the near future.”

Vice Chancellor for Research Michael Witherell said the establishment of such a program follows the university’s tradition of combining science and engineering research centers. He said researchers would inquire into diverse aspects of the field.

“The research will range from the very basic science behind the mechanisms of stem cell differentiation to the development of medical applications,” Witherell said.

According to Clegg, intensifying interest in the department led to the creation of two innovative graduate courses taught last spring.

“We offered two new graduate courses about stem cells last spring, one on the biology of stem cells and one on the ethical issues surrounding stem cell research,” Clegg said.

Furthermore, Clegg said the center’s development offers students additional ways to become involved with stem cell research on campus, such as the chance to study with experts in the field and take intensive classes on the subject.

“The center will foster new courses and research projects on stem cell biology and engineering, which means there will be opportunities for students to get involved,” Clegg said.

The center has also received a $2.26 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. The funds aim to help establish the center and contribute to its future research.

Despite awaiting formal approval for the center’s establishment, Witherell said the endowment leaves him optimistic for the program’s future once it is officially announced.

“Having an endowed chair will make it easier for us to recruit an established stem cell researcher to come and lead this new center,” Witherell said.