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University Overview & Quick Facts


The Rockefeller University is a world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics. The university’s 79 laboratories conduct both clinical and basic research and study a diverse range of biological and biomedical problems with the mission of improving the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.

Founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was the country’s first institution devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The Rockefeller University Hospital was founded in 1910 as the first hospital devoted exclusively to clinical research. In the 1950s, the institute expanded its mission to include graduate education and began training new generations of scientists to become research leaders around the world. In 1965, it was renamed The Rockefeller University. 

The university is supported by a combination of government and private grants and contracts, private philanthropy and income from the endowment.

Since its founding, The Rockefeller University has embraced an open structure to encourage collaboration between disciplines and empower faculty members to take on high-risk, high-reward projects. No formal departments exist, bureaucracy is kept to a minimum and scientists are given resources, support and unparalleled freedom to follow the science wherever it leads.

This unique approach to science has led to some of the world’s most revolutionary contributions to biology and medicine.

Throughout Rockefeller’s history, 24 of its scientists have won Nobel Prizes, 22 have won Lasker Awards and 20 have garnered the National Medal of Science, the highest science award given by the United States.

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Hospital has served as an essential link between laboratory investigation and bedside observation, as patients are participants in clinical studies building on basic research findings from Rockefeller laboratories. This continuous spectrum of research allows for in-depth study of the basis of disease detection, prevention and observation.

The David Rockefeller Graduate Program is based on the concept of learning science by doing science, and is custom tailored to its individual students and attracts a diverse group of exceptional scientists from around the world. The university also offers one of the nation’s top M.D.-Ph.D. programs with neighboring Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College.

In addition to the graduate program, there are other learning/training opportunities available, including postdoctoral research, fellowships for the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology and the Clinical Scholars Program, a master's degree for recent M.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. recipients to begin careers in patient-oriented research.

Quick Facts

The Rockefeller University Community

  • President, Richard P. Lifton
  • 79 heads of laboratories
  • 200 research and clinical scientists
  • 325 postdoctoral researchers
  • 1,050 clinicians, technicians, administrative and support staff
  • 200 Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. students
  • 1,209 alumni

Areas of Basic Interdisciplinary Research

  • chemical and structural biology
  • genetics and genomics
  • immunology, virology, and microbiology
  • medical sciences, systems physiology, and human genetics
  • molecular and cell biology
  • neuroscience and behavior
  • organismal biology, evolution, ethology, and ecology
  • physical, mathematical, and computational biology
  • stem cells, development, regeneration, and aging

Pioneering Discoveries

  • discovered that DNA is the basic material of heredity
  • determined that cancer can be caused by a virus
  • confirmed the connection between cholesterol and heart disease
  • discovered blood groups and ways to preserve whole blood
  • isolated and first successfully tested natural antibiotics
  • developed meningitis vaccines used to fight epidemics around the world
  • developed methadone maintenance therapy for heroin addiction
  • developed the AIDS “cocktail” drug therapy
  • showed that an adult brain of a higher species can form new nerve cells
  • discovered an obesity gene and the weight-regulating hormone leptin

Current Award-winning Faculty

  • 5 Nobel laureates
  • 8 recipients of Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards
  • 38 current members of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 3 recipients of the National Medal of Science

Selected Clinical Concerns Under Study

  • heart disease and stroke
  • cancer
  • aging
  • diabetes
  • alcoholism and drug addiction
  • antibiotic resistance
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • obesity, nutrition and weight loss
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders
  • autism
  • skin disease
  • hepatitis
  • vaccine development
  • vision and hearing disorders



OverviewDetailed HistoryScientists & ResearchAwards & HonorsThe Rockefeller HospitalGraduate ProgramThe Rockefeller University is a world-renowned center for research and g