Institute for Integrative Genome Biology

IIGB Geneticist Named Endowed Chair!

Susan R. Wessler, an IIGB/CEPCEB distinguished professor of genetics, has been named the Neil A. and Rochelle A. Campbell Presidential Chair for Innovation in Science Education in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS).

Wessler, a passionate advocate for spreading the excitement of doing genomics research to undergraduate students, is the first scholar named to the endowed chair, which was established by a generous gift to the campus by Rochelle A. Campbell, a longtime supporter of science education. Campbell’s earlier gifts helped create at UCR the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory, which Wessler runs. This innovative laboratory, which opened in 2011, for teaching science gives freshmen the kind of experimental research experience usually reserved for graduate students or undergraduate students in their junior and senior years.

Rochelle Campbell is the widow of Neil Campbell, who died in 2004. A UCR alumnus, he was a visiting scholar in UCR’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and a recipient of UCR’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. His book Biology is the most widely used English-language scientific textbook in the world. Campbell serves on the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees’ Stewardship Committee. She retired from the San Bernardino Unified School District after working for 30 years as an adult counselor. In 2005, she established the Neil Allison Campbell Endowed Research Award to fund internships for CNAS undergraduates. A gift from her in 2013 helped renovate a wet lab and prep room in the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory.

“In my mind Dr. Wessler is the perfect choice for the Campbell Presidential Chair for Innovation in Science Education,” Campbell said. “She is one of those unique individuals able to take her research success and integrates it into the classroom. The excitement that is created by good science research can be translated into good science teaching and positive learning outcomes for students.”

Wessler began her career at the University of Georgia in 1983 and worked in various capacities at the university—including director of the Center for Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology and University of Georgia Foundation Chair in Biological Sciences—until she joined the faculty of UCR in 2010. She is a world leader in the study of mobile DNAs, called transposons or transposable elements, that are the major drivers of plant genome evolution. Her laboratory has pioneered the use of computational and experimental analyses in the identification of actively transposing elements.

Wessler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. In 2011, she was elected home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and named the recipient of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2012 Excellence in Science Award. In 2013, she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. Last year, she was awarded the McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies.

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