The Biochemistry and Biophysics Department was established as a separate academic department at Oregon State University in 1967. Prior to 1967, graduate degrees and undergraduate courses in biochemistry were offered through the Chemistry Department. Major research programs in biochemical research began at Oregon State in the early 1950s through the Science Research Institute (SRI), under the direction of Vernon H. Cheldelin, and the Agricultural Chemistry Department. Similarly, research in biophysics began in the early 1960s through SRI and the General Science Department.
Vernon H. Cheldelin joined the Oregon State College faculty in 1942 in the Department of Chemistry as a biochemist. Cheldelin was founding director of the Science Research Institute from 1952 until 1966 and also served as Dean of the School of Science from 1962 until 1965. A native of Clatskanie, Oregon, Cheldelin earned a BA from Reed College (1937), an MS from Oregon State College (1939), and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas (1941). Cheldelin served on the Corvallis School Board; Cheldelin Middle School, constructed in 1967, was named in his honor. Cheldelin died in 1966 at the age of 50.
Robert W. Newburgh was appointed acting chair at the time the department was established and selected as permanent chair in 1968. Newburgh continued as chair until 1976, when he was appointed Dean of the Graduate School. During this time, graduate and undergraduate degree programs in biochemistry and biophysics were inititated.
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