4 Honored with Distinguished Scientist Awards

June 9, 2009 — Four pre-eminent researchers – Richard L. Guerrant, Michael Menaker, J. Thomas Parsons and Michael J. Weber – have been chosen to receive 2008-09 Distinguished Scientist Awards from the University of Virginia.

This award, created by the Office of the Vice President for Research, honors longtime faculty in the sciences, medicine and engineering who have made extensive and influential contributions to their fields.

"There was an extremely strong slate of nominees for this important award this year," Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research, said. "The four awardees represent the pinnacle of research at U.Va. Their influential discoveries in biological timing, infectious diseases and cell signaling and migration not only have had significant impact in their respective fields, but also have long-term implications for human health."

Michael Menaker is regarded as a trailblazer in the modern field of circadian rhythms. "Menaker's discoveries about circadian rhythms have been truly groundbreaking," Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said. "They bring distinction to the College and the Department of Biology, and they have become the basis on which scientists around the world are deepening our knowledge of biological timing. It is indeed fitting for the University to honor him with its Distinguished Scientist Award."

Richard Guerrant is a world-renowned expert in the understanding, diagnosis and prevention of intestinal infections. J. Thomas Parsons and Michael Weber are widely recognized as foremost researchers in cell signaling, with Parsons focusing on cell migration and Weber focusing on targeted therapies. As long-term colleagues and collaborators, they have worked together to elevate U.Va.'s reputation in these areas.

Dr. Steven T. DeKosky, vice president and dean of U.Va.'s School of Medicine, said the trio sets an outstanding example for faculty to emulate.

"Their tireless work on behalf of their science has laid the foundation for groundbreaking work in the areas of intestinal infections and cell signaling," he said.

"Dick Guerrant is a recognized leader in the field of tropical medicine and has been recognized time and time again by his peers for his contributions to global health. Tom Parsons leads the University of Virginia's largest research grant, with his stewardship of the Cell Migration Consortium. This grant of over $80 million is a textbook example of global cooperation in science. Mike Weber's research has the potential to unlock many of the mysteries of cancer and allow for better targeted therapies to treat this deadly disease."

Nominations for the Distinguished Scientist Award are accepted from U.Va. faculty and department chairmen. A panel of faculty peers judges the nominees based on publications, awards, peer reviews and impact upon a field of study, both nationally and internationally. Awardees receive a $10,000 grant to enhance their research activities.