Colorado State University Announces World-Leading Researchers as Two Newest Monfort Professors

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Colorado State University today announced two new recipients of the prestigious Monfort Professor Award, one of the university’s top honors established through a gift from the Monfort Family Foundation to help recruit and retain top-quality faculty.

Karolin Luger, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology who is regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities in nucleosome structure (the basic unit for compacting DNA); and Ranil Wickramasinghe, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and a leading expert in biotechnology and cutting-edge blood separations related research, each will receive $75,000 yearly for two years to support innovative teaching and research activities. The award is provided in addition to the salary and support the professors already receive from the university.

The awards were presented today at the all-university Celebrate Colorado State! awards luncheon.

"The ongoing, generous support of the Monfort family greatly enhances Colorado State’s ability to ensure the excellence of our Colorado State faculty and academic programs," said President Larry Edward Penley. "Dr. Luger and Dr. Wickramasinghe are international leaders in their respective fields of research and represent well both Colorado State’s world-class faculty and the land-grant mission of this great university."

The selection of Monfort Professors was the result of an in-depth nomination and selection process that included input from all eight colleges at the university.

"The vision and insight of these new Monfort Professors emphasizes the wide-ranging quality of the research and vitally important work that is the hallmark of teaching and research at Colorado State," said Peter Nicholls, provost and academic vice president. "Our students and the global community are ultimate benefactors of the dynamic contributions that take place with the help of crucial programs such as the Monfort Professors."

The Monfort Professor program is the centerpiece of a $5 million gift given to the university in spring 2002 through the Monfort Family Foundation. The gift creates a series of enhancements to the university’s faculty, students and educational experience over the next decade. The gift, which also supports the Monfort Scholars program, raised the total donations from the Monfort family and its foundations to Colorado State to more than $12.5 million.

"Over the past three generations, our family has continued our commitment and tradition of supporting excellence in the university’s faculty, students and the overall academic experience," said Dick Monfort, member of the Monfort Family Foundation. "We’re pleased to support Colorado State’s world-class faculty and their efforts to provide the best possible educational opportunities for students."

Karolin Luger joined Colorado State’s faculty in 1999 following several years of service at the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Luger’s research accomplishments are known throughout the nation and world. She led a project that effectively solved the three-dimensional structure of the nucleosome, the basic building block of chromatin, the material in which possibly billions of DNA base pairs are compacted in an individual cell nucleus – an extraordinary scientific breakthrough. This work is now cited in nearly every modern textbook of biochemistry and molecular biology.

In her first year alone at Colorado State, Luger was awarded five grants totaling nearly $1.5 million for her research, including a major, five-year National Institutes of Health grant and the prestigious Searle Scholar Award; Luger is the only Colorado State professor to have ever won this award. This type of continual support has enabled Luger to establish a productive laboratory research group at the university, resulting in 16 peer-reviewed manuscripts since 1999. Luger has initiated highly productive collaborations with several laboratories within the university and throughout the world. Recently, Luger was one of four lead investigators of a successful W. M. Keck Foundation proposal that resulted in a $1.2 million award for research in Chromatic Structure and Function. This is only the second Keck Foundation award ever to be won by a Colorado State research group.

In addition to her remarkable research, Luger has been commended for her teaching and work in mentoring both graduate and undergraduate researchers. She also is active in service assignments in both the biochemistry and molecular biology department and the College of Natural Sciences.

Luger’s past accomplishments, present activities and future promise establish her as a prominent researcher in her field and as an individual who brings significant recognition to the teaching and research programs at Colorado State.

Ranil Wickramasinghe joined Colorado State’s faculty in 1998, and since then has built an impressive research program in both quality and productivity. In this short time, he has been awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, has more than 35 peer reviewed journal publications in the field’s top journals and has established numerous research collaborations at both Colorado State and other institutions throughout the world. These collaborations, a testament to the high value and international impact of Wickramasinghe’s work, include the University of New South Wales, James Cook University and the University of Melbourne in Australia, Max-Planck Institute-Magdeburg and the University of Applied Sciences-Giessen in Germany, Tsinghua University and Jiangnan University in China, and Kyushu University in Japan, among others.

Wickramasinghe is a worldwide leader in the emerging biotechnology field of bioseparations, with an emphasis on virus clearance, a major concern in the biopharmaceutical and blood products industries. His research has the potential to impact the development of new drugs that could provide vital new treatments for life-threatening diseases. In the United States, the FDA will not approve the manufacture and sale of biopharmaceutical products without validation of adequate virus clearance. Monfort program support will help Wickramasinghe to develop a new high throughput membrane chromatography-based method for virus clearance that will likely have a major impact on the biotechnology industry.

Wickramasinghe is dedicated to his students and to education at all levels. He takes great pride in designing projects that match students’ education levels and ensures that undergraduates will grow through research challenges.

Wickramasinghe is also active in service at Colorado State and in professional organizations in his field. He is a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and numerous leading journals and regularly chairs sessions at national and international meetings. He additionally serves on the chemical engineering department’s search and graduate advisory committees and coordinates one of the university’s teaching laboratories.

Luger and Wickramasinghe join four previously named Monfort Professors: A. Scott Denning, assistant professor of atmospheric science and an international leader in the study of global climate change; Yian Shi, associate professor of chemistry who has discovered several highly fundamental chemical processes; John Belisle, associate professor of microbiology and a leading expert in tuberculosis research; and Kathleen Pickering, assistant professor of anthropology who is known for her significant work in economic anthropology.

A total of 10 Monfort Professors will be selected for the award over a five-year period.

For more information about Monfort Professors, visit the Web at