New leadership for the UCLA Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) Training Program

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The baton for the leadership of the NIH-supported UCLA CMB training program was passed on from Professor Steven Clarke to Professor Jorge Torres on July 1, 2018.

Professor Jorge Torres (Chemistry & Biochemistry) will be aided in his direction of the program by Professor Elissa Hallem (Microbiology, Immunology, & Molecular Genetics) who has taken on the role of Associate Director. The program coordinator Dr. Jonathan Lowenson (Ph.D. ’83) will continue his service.

Torres came to UCLA in 2009 after completing his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at Princeton University and postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford University and Genenetech. His research interests focus on identifying novel cancer targets and the mechanism of action of anticancer drugs in human cells.

Professor Steven Clarke (Chemistry & Biochemistry) has been the Primary Investigator (PI) of the continuously NIH-NIGMS funded training grant since 1988.  In recent years, he has teamed with the program’s Associate Director Professor Carla Koehler (Chemistry & Biochemistry) and a steering committee including Professors Fung Guo (Biological Chemistry), Tracy Johnson (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology), Robert Clubb (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Alexander van der Bliek (Biological Chemistry), and Elissa Hallem.

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Professors Jorge Torres and Steven Clarke. Photo by Penny Jennings.

The CMB training program currently supports stipends, tuition, and travel for 22 Ph.D. students doing thesis work in cellular and molecular biology in Chemistry & Biochemistry, and in the UCLA Graduate Program in Bioscience, including the Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Program. The CMB program also offers course work in research integrity training and seminar opportunities and has a focus on enlarging the diversity of the scientific work-force by outreach and recruiting efforts.

“The CMB training program has supported so many of our graduate students, and Steve’s leadership was key to supporting diversity, ethics, and integrity in science” said Department Chair Catherine Clarke. “His leadership helped this grant be funded continuously for the past 30 years.”

A celebration of the leadership change was held on August 23, 2018. In her remarks at the event, Chair Clarke said “I want to extend a very heartfelt and special thanks to Jorge Torres for being the new leader of the CMB. We know the CMB is good hands, and raise our glasses to both Jorge and Steve to celebrate its past and continued success!”  During her remarks, Clarke showed a slide show with photos of past trainees and a graph of recent career outcomes for CMB trainees. Click here to view the slide show.

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At the event, Department Chair Catherine Clarke showed a slide show with photos of the many recipients of CMB fellowships. Photo by Jin Lee.

The CMB program was initiated by the late Chemistry & Biochemistry Professor Paul Boyer in 1974, and was subsequently directed by Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics Professor Fred Eiserling for its first 13 years. Eiserling then recruited Clarke to take over, and he led the CMB program for the next 30 years (years 14 to 43), taking the program through six five-year renewals and three ten-year site visits.

In the last 18 years, from 2000 to 2018, NIH awarded the program $18,790,968.00.  A total of nearly $30 million was awarded while Clarke was PI for the grant. 

Clarke was also instrumental in recruiting matching funds from the UCLA Graduate Division which were used for tuition, increasing the diversity of the program and travel opportunities trainees.  In 2016, Clarke worked with the Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and the Medical School Deans to arrange for additional funds for student travel and for the recruitment of underrepresented students.

Under Clarke’s direction (from July 1, 1988 to June 30, 2018), 397 graduate student trainees were supported. 


From Chair Clarke’s slide show at the event – career outcomes statistics for CMB trainees from 2002-2016.

For more information about the CMB Training Program, visit the program’s website.