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Pugh Named Willaman Professor in Molecular Biology

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11 June 2007

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B. Franklin Pugh, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, has been named the Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology in the Penn State Eberly College of Science. The Willaman Professorships were established in 1999 by Verne M. Willaman, a 1951 graduate of Penn State. The professorships provide outstanding faculty members with a supplemental source of support to further their research, teaching, writing, and public service.

Pugh has built a research program that is investigating how genes are controlled in the cells of animals, plants, and other species with eukaryotic cells. He focuses particularly on the 6,000 genes of the baker's yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. "Since the transcription machinery is fundamentally the same in all eukaryotes, lessons learned from yeast provide the foundation for understanding how genes are regulated in humans, and how mis-regulation of genes leads to diseases such as cancer," said Pugh.

He uses biochemistry methods to understand the mechanisms of gene regulation and uses genomic methods — including genome-wide location assays, genome-wide expression profiling, and bioinformatic analyses — to track the transcription machinery as it operates throughout the entire genome, generating millions of data points. Computational modeling of the data allows him to integrate biochemically-defined regulatory mechanisms, with which he is working in order to generate a unified gene-regulatory network.

Pugh has published more than 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. He was named a Leukemia Society of America Postdoctoral Fellow in 1988, a Searle Scholar in 1992, and a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar in 1996. He received a Daniel Tershak Faculty Teaching Award in 1996 and a Faculty Scholar Medal in 2006. He was a member of the American Cancer Society peer-review committee on Genetic Mechanisms from 1999 to 2003, and was a member of the peer-review panel for the Florida Department of Health from 2001 to 2003. He currently is director of the Center for Gene Regulation at Penn State.

He received a bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell University in 1983 and a doctoral degree in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987. He was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1987 to 1988 and at the University of California, Berkeley from 1988 to 1991. He joined the faculty at Penn State as assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in 1992. He was promoted to associate professor in 1998 and to professor in 2005.

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