In an era marked by the growing interdisciplinary nature of science, this new program will call on specialists from disparate fields such as physics, computer science, chemical engineering, and applied mathematics to tackle current problems in molecular biology. Their goal, in Hood's words, will be no less than to "develop the tools that are going to push us into the 21st century."

Funded by a $12 million gift from William Gates III, founder and chairman of the Microsoft Corp. of nearby Redmond, Wash., the charter of the new department will be to develop techniques and instruments that further the study of fundamental problems of modern biology, such as DNA sequencing, DNA diagnostics, and gene mapping.

1. New DNA Diagnostics and Genetic Mapping Instrumentation. The group hopes to expand and automate the process whereby genes are mapped and genetic diseases characterized.

2. Automated DNA Sequencer. In 1986, Hood's lab developed the...

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