2008 Endowed Scholars program brings news talent to faculty

By Amanda Siegfried

Four of the country’s most outstanding young researchers have joined the
UT Southwestern faculty as endowed scholars.

The Endowed Scholars Program in Biomedical Science, established in 1998 with $60 million in philanthropic funds, allows the medical center to recruit highly skilled basic-science investigators who bring their expertise to UT Southwestern as tenure-track assistant professors. Each receives four-year start-up funding to enable them to explore and expand original ideas.

To date, 58 investigators have come to the medical center as part of the program.
“The Endowed Scholars Program in Biomedical Science owes its success to the vision of many generous donors who saw the power of this dedicated support to attract the best and brightest to UT Southwestern at a point in their careers when they are poised to make their most important contributions. These remarkably talented individuals will ensure continued internationally recognized excellence in clinical and basic research at UT Southwestern for many years to come,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of the medical center.

Scholars for 2008-2012 are:

From left: Dr. Steven Patrie, Dr. Chun-Li Zhang, Dr. Yihong Wan and Dr. Bing Li are the 2008-2012 Endowed Scholars in Biomedical Research.

W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr. Scholar 
in Medical Research

Dr. Bing Li, assistant professor of molecular biology, earned his master’s degree in plant molecular biology from Peking University and his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from Pennsylvania State University. He completed postdoctoral research at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo.

Dr. Li’s research focuses on the mechanisms that regulate gene expression, including epigenetic factors and chromatin remodeling. Such mechanisms are important clinical targets in a wide variety of cancers. His work might lead to new strategies for diagnosing and treating the disease.

W.W. Caruth Jr. Scholar 
in Biomedical Research

Dr. Chun-Li Zhang, assistant professor of molecular biology, received his master’s degree from the Wuhan Institute of Virology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his doctorate in genes and development from UT Southwestern, where he studied under Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology. He completed postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., with Drs. Ronald Evans and Fred Gage.

Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating brain function, especially adult neural stem cells, neurogenesis, psychological diseases such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and mental retardation. His insights into how neural stem cells in the brain continually generate new neurons, as well as their role in initiating some brain tumors, could lead to novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar
in Medical Research

Dr. Yihong Wan, assistant professor of pharmacology, earned her doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. She completed postdoctoral research with Dr. Ronald Evans at the Salk Institute, and this year received the John Haddad Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

Dr. Wan’s long-term research goal is to understand how a family of proteins called nuclear receptors regulates normal development, metabolism and cancer, using the skeleton and mammary glands as model systems. Her work focuses on understanding the role of a nuclear receptor called PPAR-gamma in bone diseases, children’s health and breast cancer.

John L. Roach Scholar 
in Biomedical Research

Dr. Steven Patrie, assistant professor of internal medicine in translational research, holds a joint appointment with the division of materials science and engineering at UT Dallas. Dr. Patrie received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Northern Iowa and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois — Urbana/Champaign. He completed postdoctoral work in pathology at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Patrie’s interests include how modification of various proteins plays a role in autoimmune disorders and cancer biology. He has developed automated technology that can be used to characterize such proteins and their modifications. Such novel analysis tools could lead to a better understanding of disease mechanisms, as well as to new early detection and prognostic tools for hospital laboratories.