Message from the Chair

A Message from Chantal Autexier, Department Chair

Welcome to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

The department is part of the School of Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University and the oldest of the Basic Science Departments in the Faculty. The discipline of Anatomy played a prominent role in the history of the medical school and the education of students in Medicine, Dentistry and other health related disciplines. Today, the mission of the Division of Anatomical Science within the Department is to coordinate the instruction of human anatomy for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Among our ranks we are fortunate to have dedicated professors who are recipients of prestigious teaching awards.

The transition from anatomy research to studies of cell structure and function was an inevitable trend with the advances in cellular and molecular technologies and the increased focus on cell biology research in our department eventually led to its name change from the Department of Anatomy to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. Central to the importance of cell biology research were the revolutionary studies by Charles Leblond and his PhD student Yves Clermont that led to the development of the ‘Stem Cell Renewal Theory’ in the early 1950s.

The progress in our understanding of cell structure and function was intrinsically linked to advances in microscopy. The Department is now home of the biggest cluster of cryo-electron microscopy expertise in Canada and the Facility for Electron Microscopy Research at McGill University. To understand cell structure and function, many of our researchers use single particle cryo-electron microscopy, cryo-electron tomography, correlative light-electron microscopy and computation for the development of image processing tools.

Our research interests span a broad variety of topics ranging from the understanding of the mechanisms of bacterial antimicrobial resistance to unveiling the mechanisms of cell division, transport and sorting of proteins, structure and function of extracellular matrices, and the mechanisms of cancer and aging.

To quote Rushika Perera, recent recipient of the Günter Blobel Early Career Award from the American Society for Cell Biology:

‘Today’s cell biology could be considered a fusion of disciplines that blends advanced genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and engineering to answer fundamental as well as medically relevant scientific questions. Accordingly, our understanding of diseases is greatly aided by an existing vast knowledge base of fundamental cell biology. Günter Blobel captured this concept when he said, “the tremendous acquisition of basic knowledge will allow a much more rational treatment of cancer, viral infection, degenerative disease and mental disease.” In other words, without cell biology can we truly understand, prevent, or effectively treat a disease?’

The Department’s biggest strength and pride is our people: our researchers, teachers, administrators, support staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students.

I welcome you to not only browse our Departmental website for more information about our history, who we are, and what we do, but also to visit us and our remarkable team.

Chantal Autexier, PhD

Chair, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

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