My first full year on the job as a rookie director has been a wild ride. First, let me thank director emeritus Jerry Hazelbauer and then interim Jack Tanner for their excellent service to the Department. The year started with the noted retirements of Professors Dave Emerich and Bruce McClure, who many may remember. Dr. Emerich had some parting advice to me. More of that later.
It has been a pleasure for me to get to know the Department better in its various missions. I started my year over at the medical school, along with several of our recent grads, as one of near half of our faculty who teach or facilitate in the first-year medical curriculum. It is quite different from typical undergraduate studies, but a thrill for all of us to see how well prepared our graduates are as they step up to their next challenges. Let us sneak in a congratulations to Dr. Jon Dyer (BS Biochem ’94) who took that step a few years ago and, today, was announced as the new Chair of MU’s Dermatology Department.
With many retirements in recent years, the Department has started to recruit faculty. Among this year’s recruits is home-coming Professor Olga Baker. One-time research fellow in the group of CAFNR professor Dr. Gary Weisman, she has returned from the University of Utah to lead a translational research program, jointly between the departments of Biochemistry and Otolaryngology, part of growing inter-connectivity on our campus. We are glad to have Dr. Baker back here at Mizzou!
Dr. Emerich’s aforementioned advice had been that I should teach sections of our senior capstone course so that I could be fully appraised of how much our students learned over the course of their studies. I have been impressed with our students’ ability to integrate their biochemistry into real life, as well as their adaptability. None of us could have anticipated the impact of this global pandemic. Within two days of closing campus in mid-March, all of Biochemistry’s education had moved online. We are slowly returning – research laboratories are partially operational, and we are preparing for a Fall semester with all eventualities covered. We have to be very proud of both students and faculty for making the adaptations needed in the face of concerns that were larger than us individuals.
Graduate studies are rebounding. This coming fall will be the largest intake in several years. Last week, I was happy to share the news with faculty of a gift to the Department that will enable us to award four new two-year fellowships for the next three years. The $882,000 gift that makes this possible comes from a charitable foundation formed from the estate of former Biochemistry graduate student who studied with the late Professor Boyd O’Dell. We are so grateful for the recognition that education can be formative, and that the foundation wants to help others fulfill their dreams.
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Michael S. Chapman
Director, Division of Biochemistry