About the Chair
Jennifer J. Westendorf, Ph.D., was named enterprise chair of Mayo Clinic's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in February 2020. Dr. Westendorf earned bachelor's degrees in biology and chemistry at the University of Minnesota and her Ph.D. at Mayo Clinic in biomedical sciences-immunology. She completed postdoctoral training at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Vanderbilt University.
In 2000, Dr. Westendorf began her independent research career at the University of Minnesota, where she advanced understanding of transcriptional regulation, histone deacetylases, epigenetics and the Wnt pathway in bone development. Dr. Westendorf was an active member of multiple graduate programs, trained several Ph.D. students and co-wrote the first musculoskeletal research training grant at the University of Minnesota. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure.
In 2007, Dr. Westendorf returned to Mayo Clinic as an associate professor in orthopedics and biochemistry and molecular biology. She was promoted to professor in both fields in 2011. She currently holds the Margaret Amini Professorship in Orthopedic Regenerative Medicine Research.
Dr. Westendorf's research interests focus on the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms regulating endochondral and intramembranous bone formation, repair and regeneration with the goal of improving the care of individuals with skeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and bone tumors. Her lab is currently focused on understanding how pleckstrin homology domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatases (PHLPPs) control bone growth and articular cartilage health. She has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since she was a postdoctoral fellow.
Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are intimately involved in Dr. Westendorf's research projects and are essential to their success. Many of her students and fellows are directing their own independent research programs. Dr. Westendorf founded and leads Mayo Clinic's NIH-funded training grant in musculoskeletal research that is now in its second decade and is a centralizing activity for musculoskeletal research at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Westendorf received the Dean's Recognition Award from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences for her educational leadership in 2016. She led the Regenerative Science Training Program (RSTP) before becoming department chair and facilitated the approval of a new graduate program track in regenerative sciences, which is slated to begin recruiting students in 2021.
Dr. Westendorf believes in service. She has served the musculoskeletal field for over 20 years as a member of the boards, councils and committees of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), and the International Federation of Musculoskeletal Research Societies (IFMRS). Within the IFMRS, she serves on the Big Data Working Group, which recently launched a Musculoskeletal Knowledge Portal for genomic data in collaboration with the Broad Institute.
Dr. Westendorf received the ASBMR Fuller Albright Award (2009) and the ORS Women's Leadership Forum Award (2018), and was named Fellow of the ASBMR (2018). Dr. Westendorf was a member of the structure based drug design (SBDD) study section for four years, served as member and chair of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) AMS committee and special emphasis panels, and is currently a member of the NIAMS Advisory Council. She has served on several editorial boards and is currently the deputy editor of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
Dr. Westendorf has held many leadership roles at Mayo Clinic. She was vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for 10 years before being named enterprise chair in 2020, she served on the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology education committee, and she directed the department's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program for three years. Also, she has served as chair of Mayo Clinic's Research Finance Subcommittee and director of the Office of Research Diversity and Inclusion. She is a member of Mayo Clinic's Medical Industry Relations Committee, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery's Research Committee and Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She previously represented researchers within Mayo Clinic Officers and Councilors and in the Mayo Clinic Office of Staff Services.
Dr. Westendorf believes that the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology are foundational to biomedical discovery and translation. As chair, she aims to promote scientific and educational excellence by enabling collaboration and new partnerships. She also believes that diversity brings great value and productivity to teams and understands that there are many dimensions of diversity and intersectionality. She aims to promote an inclusive and equitable culture so that all can excel at Mayo Clinic.