Steven Hyman
Steven Hyman

Steven E. Hyman, former professor of psychiatry at Harvard and current director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), has been named provost of the University, President Lawrence H. Summers announced Monday, Oct. 29.

A leading scholar at the intersection of molecular neurobiology and psychiatry, Hyman was the original faculty director of Harvard’s Interfaculty Initiative in Mind/Brain/Behavior. He will assume his new responsibilities on Dec. 10.

The provost is Harvard’s senior University-wide academic officer following the president. The provost’s responsibilities focus on academic planning and policy matters of University priority or concern, with an emphasis on activities that extend across several Harvard faculties or otherwise involve collaboration and change.

“Steve Hyman is an outstanding scientist, an admired educator, and a creative organizational leader,” Summers said in announcing the appointment. “I very much look forward to working in close partnership with him.

“Steve’s intellectual interests range broadly, and he has a deep commitment to rigorous interdisciplinary pursuits,” Summers said. “His research has been widely influential on the frontier where molecular biology, neuroscience, genetics, and psychiatry all meet. He spent two decades at Harvard before leaving for the NIMH, where he has invigorated an important research institute during a time of great advances in our understanding of the human brain and behavior. He’s also a warm and insightful person, with an excellent grasp of the human dimensions of an academic community.

“Steve’s talents and experience promise to make him an energetic leader in stimulating both cooperation and innovation,” Summers added. “I expect he will play a central role in fostering interdisciplinary collaboration across Harvard, in helping ensure the highest quality of academic appointments and educational programs, and in working collegially with the deans, the faculty, the vice presidents, and others to plan and set priorities in more integrated ways. All of us will be fortunate to have Steve Hyman back at Harvard.”

Said Hyman: “I am very excited to be returning to Harvard, with its unparalleled intellectual vitality. I am incredibly enthusiastic about working with President Larry Summers, with whom I share nearly limitless aspirations for Harvard as this great institution enters the 21st century. One of the greatest attractions for me is that once again I will be able to interact with students. I look back upon my years at the National Institutes of Health with great satisfaction, but inevitably what I missed was an involvement with disciplines outside the sciences and, above all, the invigorating give and take with students that can occur only at a university.”

Born in 1952 in New York City, Hyman graduated from Yale College summa cum laude in philosophy and the humanities, in 1974. Then, as a Mellon fellow in philosophy of science, he received the B.A. (first class honors) and M.A. degrees from the University of Cambridge in 1976.

Later that year, he arrived at Harvard Medical School (HMS), which became his academic and professional home for the next 20 years. He received his M.D. in 1980. He went on to a series of positions within HMS and the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), including service as an intern in medicine, a resident in psychiatry at McLean Hospital, a clinical and research fellow in endocrinology and neurology, and four years as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology. For three consecutive years (1988-90), he was selected as best teacher by graduating MGH psychiatry residents.

Hyman rose through the faculty ranks at the Medical School, eventually being promoted to professor of psychiatry. He served as director of psychiatry research at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1992 to 1996, and director of the interdisciplinary Division on Addictions at HMS from 1992 to 1995.

From 1994 to 1996, Hyman became the first faculty director of the University’s Interfaculty Initiative on Mind/Brain/Behavior. “MBB” brings together scholars from across Harvard to pursue fundamental questions about human behavior along novel, interdisciplinary lines, extending across neuroscience, the social sciences, and the humanities. Since its inception, MBB has explored such questions as the meaning and causes of addiction, the capacity for creativity, the nature of memory and belief, and the origins of intergroup violence. The initiative has also led, among other things, to the introduction of new undergraduate concentration tracks in biology, computer science, history and science, and psychology.

In 1996, Harold Varmus, then-director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), named Hyman as director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the federal agency charged with generating the knowledge needed to understand, treat, and prevent mental illness. Hyman’s tenure has been marked by intensified efforts to bring molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral science all to bear, in integrated ways, on the understanding of mental illness and mental health. He has also worked to reorganize both the institute’s peer-review systems and its extramural funding divisions.

Under Hyman’s leadership, the NIMH has heightened the priority it gives to four broad areas: (1) fundamental research on brain, behavior, and genetics; (2) rapid translation of basic discoveries into research on mental disorders and their treatment; (3) research focused on improving the lives of people with mental disorders, including clinical trials and studies of preventive interventions conducted in “real-world” settings; and (4) research on childhood mental disorders. Hyman continued to direct an active research program in molecular neurobiology on the NIH campus, focused on how the neurotransmitter dopamine regulates gene expression in neurons in the brain.

In recent weeks, Hyman has been a prominent voice for the NIH on the psychological effects both of the Sept. 11 attacks and of bioterrorism.

A leading authority on how various internal and external stimuli affect mind, brain, and behavior, Hyman is the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific articles, reviews, and textbook chapters. He is also the co-author of three books: “Handbook of Psychiatric Drug Therapy” (3d ed., 1995), “Molecular Foundations of Psychiatry” (1993), and “Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience” (2001).

He has served on the editorial boards of various journals of psychiatry, neurobiology, and genetics, and on advisory boards for such organizations as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Association for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Riken Brain Sciences Institute in Japan, and the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Germany. In addition, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences as well as professional societies in psychiatry, neuroscience, and neuropsychopharmacology.

Hyman is married to Barbara Bierer, M.D., currently chief of the laboratory of lymphocyte biology at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at NIH. She previously served as director of Pediatric Stem Cell Transplantation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital in Boston, while rising to the rank of professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. They have three children.

Hyman’s appointment marks the culmination of a search begun in April, when Summers, having recently been named to become Harvard’s 27th president, addressed a letter to the Harvard community soliciting nominations and advice. “I’m grateful to the many faculty, staff, students, and others who took the time to share their thoughts with me, both about the provost’s role and about potential candidates,” Summers said. “It was a very valuable learning experience for me, and has led us to an excellent outcome.”