September 2012

Member update

Blumenthal to head up Down syndrome institute
Photo of Tom Blumenthal Tom Blumenthal of the University of Colorado-Boulder was named the next executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome. Blumenthal has been associated with the institute, based at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus, since its inception as a member of its advisory board and its board of directors. In a statement, Blumenthal said he intends to increase significantly the volume of research conducted at the institute, emphasizing that he believes “we are obligated to help people through scientific study.” He added that, given today’s technological advances, “we have a fighting chance at delivering.” Upon accepting the appointment, Blumenthal stepped down from his post as the chairman of the University of Colorado–Boulder’s department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

Mizzou bestows its annual President’s Award on Sun
Photo of Grace Y. Sun Grace Y. Sun of the University of Missouri won her institution’s President’s Award for Sustained Excellence, given to a faculty member “who demonstrates and sustains a record of distinguished scholarship, research or creativity,” according to the university. Sun, who studies the malfunctioning of central nervous system signaling pathways associated with neurodegenerative diseases, was lauded for her use of new technologies to study Alzheimer’s disease and for excellence in research. Sun, a professor of biochemistry, has served on numerous editorial boards and organizing committees and has been recognized with many awards over the past decade.

Varshavsky wins two international awards
Photo of Alexander Varshavsky Alexander Varshavsky of the California Institute of Technology won the 2012 King Faisal International Prize for Science and the 2011 BBVA Award in Biomedical Sciences. Both were issued in recognition of numerous achievements by Varshavsky and his research team over the years, including the discovery of the first biological functions of the ubiquitin system and regulated protein degradation, the discovery of the first degradation signals in short-lived proteins, the discovery of the first ubiquitin‑conjugating enzymes with defined physiological functions, and the identification and cloning of the first ubiquitin ligase. Collectively, this and other pioneering work by Varshavsky and his lab in the 1980s laid the foundation for the field of ubiquitin biology. Upon receiving the second award in Madrid, Varshavsky said he felt “privileged having been able to contribute to the birth of this field and to partake in its later development.” He added, “This arena grew rapidly in the 1990s and has become, by now, an immense and profoundly important biomedical realm.”

Photo of Michelle Barton and Michael Blackburn 
Michelle Barton and Michael Blackburn
Photo of George Stancel 
George Stancel

Barton, Blackburn to serve jointly as deans
The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston, a partnership between the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (known as UT-Health) and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, chose Michelle Barton and Michael Blackburn to serve jointly as deans of the institution. A professor in the graduate school’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology, Barton joined MD Anderson in 2000 and studies chromatin function and tumor suppressor gene p53. Blackburn, vice-chairman in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at UT-Health’s medical school, joined that institution in 1997 and studies chronic lung disorders. Barton and Blackburn replace George Stancel, who ended his 13-year stint as dean to become the executive vice president for academic and research affairs at UT-Health.

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