Two University of Illinois researchers, Phillip A. Newmark, a professor of cell and developmental biology, and Wilfred A. van der Donk, the William H. and Janet Lycan professor of chemistry, have been named Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators.
Newmark and van der Donk are among 56 biomedical scientists chosen from among 1,070 applications submitted in a nationwide competition. The 2008 investigators were selected for their ability to bring new and innovative ways of thinking about biology to the HHMI community, said Thomas R. Cech, the president of the institute.
The Maryland-based institute is a private philanthropy dedicated to supporting biomedical research and science education. It is committing more than $600 million to support new research conducted by the 56 investigators in their first term of appointment.
Two other U. of I. faculty members have received HHMI awards. Chemistry professor Yi Lu was named an HHMI professor in 2002, and physics professor Taekjip Ha became an HHMI investigator in 2005. The campus has received numerous educational grants from the institute, beginning in 1993.
Newmark long has been fascinated by the freshwater planarian, a flatworm that has remarkable powers of regeneration. Cut it into numerous pieces and each piece will regenerate missing body parts, including brains, digestive organs and in most cases, reproductive organs.
According to those making the award, Newmark has been instrumental in establishing planarians as a model system for studying regeneration at the molecular level. (He) is exploring a central question that has long intrigued biologists what are the signals or cues that tell a cell to become a germ cell? He hopes to answer that question by studying the ways planarians develop and regenerate their germ cells.
The department is delighted and proud of Dr. Newmarks selection as an HHMI investigator, said cell and developmental biology professor an
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign