Sally Kornbluth

Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D.

Sally Kornbluth

Sally Kornbluth became MIT’s 18th president on January 1, 2023. She is a cell biologist whose eight-year tenure as Duke University’s provost earned her a reputation as a brilliant administrator, a creative problem-solver, and a leading advocate of academic excellence.

Previously the Jo Rae Wright University Professor of Biology, Kornbluth had served on the Duke faculty since 1994. As provost, she served as Duke’s chief academic officer, with broad responsibility for carrying out its teaching and research missions; developing its intellectual priorities; and partnering with others to achieve wide-ranging gains for faculty and students. 

Kornbluth’s research has focused on the biological signals that tell a cell to start dividing or to self-destruct — processes that are key to understanding cancer as well as various degenerative disorders. She has published extensively on cell proliferation and programmed cell death, studying both phenomena in a variety of organisms. Her research has helped to show how cancer cells evade this programmed death, or apoptosis, and how metabolism regulates the cell death process; her work has also clarified the role of apoptosis in regulating the duration of female fertility in vertebrates.

A native of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Kornbluth studied political science as an undergraduate at Williams College. After earning her B.A. in political science from Williams, Kornbluth received a scholarship to attend Cambridge University, ultimately earning a B.A. in genetics from Cambridge. 

Kornbluth received her Ph.D. in molecular oncology from Rockefeller University, and then completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. She joined Duke as an assistant professor of pharmacology and cancer biology in 1994, becoming an associate professor in 2000 and a full professor in 2005. Her first senior administrative position came when she was named vice dean for basic science at the Duke School of Medicine in 2006, a post she held until being named provost in 2014.

Among other honors, Kornbluth received the Basic Science Research Mentoring Award from the Duke School of Medicine in 2012 and the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Duke Medical Alumni Association in 2013. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


January 2023