Dr John J Rossi’s titles and accolades are many and varied — and well earned. In his current affiliation with the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rossi serves as chair and professor of molecular and cellular biology, dean of the graduate school of biological sciences, and associate director for laboratory research. He is co-leader of the cancer biology program and the first holder of the Lidow Family Research Chair. These professional accomplishments are complemented by numerous awards, including a 2002 Merit Award in the Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The common thread that weaves all of these activities and achievements together continues to be an unabashed enthusiasm for and curiosity toward scientific discovery — specifically in the molecular genetics of disease.
Rossi received his doctoral degree in microbial genetics in the late 1970s. At the time, cloning was only just becoming a tool that researchers could use, and with Rossi’s exposure to this now basic technique, his fascination with genetics turned to the molecular aspects of the discipline. Rossi was drawn to postdoctoral studies in Dr Arthur Landy’s lab at Brown University because of Landy’s groundbreaking work in sequencing genetic information for the bacteriophage lambda. Landy’s work focused on trying to understand some of the sequences of the attachment site of the bacteriophage in its host chromosome. He also completed the first restriction map of any lambda phage. Rossi was particularly attracted by the technology he would have access to in this forward-thinking environment.