Lee Ligon, associate professor of biological sciences, has been appointed associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Science.

The associate dean is responsible for undergraduate and graduate curricula oversight, undergraduate advising, enrollment management initiatives, and assistance in faculty search, promotion, and tenure processes, among other duties.

“I am thrilled that Lee has joined the School of Science leadership,” said Curt Breneman, dean of science and professor of chemistry and chemical biology. “Lee brings a unique blend of science expertise, policy experience, and technical leadership to the school, and we welcome her as a valuable member of our team.”

A cell biologist, Ligon studies the internal structure of the cell, the cytoskeleton, and how it is organized to generate and maintain the complex 3-D shape of differentiated cells. She also studies how cells interact with their environment, in particular how cancer cells interact with the tissue surrounding the tumor, known as the tumor microenvironment.

She has received funding from government agencies including a five-year $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how microtubules, one of the three major components of the cellular cytoskeleton, are assembled like a set of microscopic roadways. This transportation system allows the cell to efficiently move its components to different subcellular locations, and is disrupted in many diseases. The work in the Ligon lab seeks to understand how this system works in order to better understand these human diseases.

She also received a Research Scholar Award from the American Cancer Society to study interactions between tumor cells and the surrounding healthy tissue. Research in the Ligon lab has revealed novel molecular and mechanical connections between breast cancer cells and healthy cells. They have shown that tumor cells can change the behavior of normal cells and, likewise, that normal cells can change the behavior of tumor cells. This research may pave the way to a better understanding of metastatic disease.

Ligon is currently serving a three-year term as chair of the Public Information Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). The Public Information Committee is the outreach arm of the society, promoting science outreach and public engagement as a core value of ASCB and its members.

In 2015 she was awarded a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She served one year at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C., working on international human rights policy, specifically advancing LGBTI-inclusive development.

Ligon joined Rensselaer in 2006 as assistant professor, following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her bachelor’s degree in letters and biopsychology at Wesleyan University and her doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Virginia.