News of the University

Good Chemistry

The U’s chemistry facility will be expanding, thanks to the NIH and private grants

Department of Chemistry
An architect’s illustration of the new Department of Chemistry building. Image courtesy Prescott Muir Architects.

In June 2009, the Department of Chemistry received a grant of $8 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) toward the construction of an addition to the south tower of the Henry Eying Building specifically to support biological and biophysical chemistry research. The NIH grant will enhance the department’s position as a national and international leader in biological and biophysical chemistry, the fundamental sciences in advancing medicine and biotechnology.

Constructing and equipping the new facility is estimated to cost $20 million. In addition to the NIH grant and University funds, private contributions are being sought. In recognition of a major gift toward this project by the Lawrence [BS’45] and Helen [ex’46] Thatcher family of Salt Lake City, the newly expanded south chemistry tower will be named the Thatcher Building for Biological and Biophysical Chemistry. The Thatchers and their four children are all alumni of the U.

“We are extremely grateful to the Thatcher family and the NIH for their support,” says Henry S. White, department chair. “The new building will increase collaboration between research groups that specialize in organic and biochemical synthesis, spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, and biophysical modeling and simulation, and thereby attract and retain high-profile researchers to the faculty.”

This project comes at a crucial time for the department, as the north tower of the Eyring Building is now more than 40 years old and needs upgrading. Space for research is already stretched to capacity, and the department’s undergraduate population is projected to increase over the next several years. “Our department has a great track record of producing undergraduates who go on to graduate school and to medical school,” says Distinguished Professor C. Dale Poulter. “But it will be extremely difficult to maintain that high standard with 40-year-old facilities.”

The new building will include a mass spectrometry facility, advanced undergraduate laboratories, two floors for imaging and spectroscopy, biochemistry and organic synthesis, and a floor for theory and modeling. The groundbreaking is expected to take place in fall 2010.


Congratulations to Kelsey Price, a freshman at the U, who triumphed over 563 other students in a national civic engagement competition this past summer. The Our Voice Our Country Summer Scholarship Competition required participants to identify what they believe to be the most urgent problem facing our nation, and to nominate an expert in the field ready to post an achievable solution, which may later be presented to key leaders in Congress as an outcome. Price chose to address the ongoing conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region of Pakistan as her topic and wisely picked a former member of the Musharraf and Bhutto governments, Harvard fellow Hassan Abbas, as a problem solver able to articulate a plan of action. Price received a $1,000 scholarship, which can be used for supplies or any other costs related to her studies.

Ivor J. Benjamin
Ivor J. Benjamin;
Photo courtesy U of U Health Sciences Public Affairs

Kudos also to Ivor J. Benjamin, M.D., professor of internal medicine and biochemistry and the Christi T. Smith Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Research at the U of U School of Medicine, who was recently granted a $2.5 million Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health—one of the organization’s most prestigious honors. Benjamin was recognized for his pioneering model proposing that one cause of heart disease may be that one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants—molecules generally believed to protect the heart—actually might lead to disease in the heart and other organs when a gene mutation causes the body to overproduce the molecule. His theory, which stirred some controversy when initially presented in 2007, represents a paradigm shift in understanding the causes of heart disease.

For additional accolades, visit and select “Recognizing U.”

Back from the Brink

Former U of u professor Brooke Hopkins’ recovery is detailed in an inspiring blog.

Brooke Hopkins
Brooke Hopkins

In November 2008, life took a 180-degree turn for retired English professor Brooke Hopkins.

While riding his bicycle through Salt Lake City’s City Creek Canyon, Hopkins collided with another cyclist. Although the other bicyclist was unhurt, the violent collision threw Hopkins to the ground. His neck was broken.

During the past year, Hopkins has been fighting for his life. He is almost completely paralyzed—a cruel blow for a man renowned for his vitality and physical strength. Hopkins and his wife, U professor and internationally noted medical ethicist Peggy Battin, have lived through the dramatic ups and downs of his recovery together, buoyed by loving support from family, friends, strangers, and the medical community. The Salt Lake Tribune has published several articles about Brooke’s inspiring struggle.

Hopkins’ recovery is chronicled in a blog maintained by the family and others. The blog not only provides updates on Hopkins’ progress, but it also serves as an inspirational gathering place for the scores of students, colleagues, and friends who continue to wish Hopkins well.

Visit Brooke Hopkins’ and Peggy Battin’s blog at

Campus Notebook

Prescott Muir
Prescott Muir
Photo courtesy Scott Peterson

New Head of School of Architecture
Prescott Muir BFA’82, AIA, an award-winning architect practicing in Salt Lake City and southern California since 1976, is the new director of the University’s School of Architecture, a department in the College of Architecture + Planning. Among Muir’s design projects are familiar Utah cultural icons including the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and the Bridge Project for Artspace in Salt Lake City, and the Ethel Wattis Kimball Visual Arts Center and the Pleasant Valley Library in Ogden. No stranger to the academic setting, Muir also has been an adjunct professor at the U since 1993, teaching design studios for graduate students in architecture.

U Research

U Research Tops One-Third Billion Dollars
The University of Utah collected a record $354.7 million in research funding during the 2009 fiscal year, an impressive 16 percent annual increase despite the economic recession and modest assistance from federal stimulus funds. The University’s research funding totaled $354,659,178 for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, up more than $49 million from the $305,621,461 collected during the previous year. Only $1.5 million of the $49 million increase came from funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Within the University, funding rose significantly in all colleges with external research funding exceeding $5 million annually. They include the School of Medicine and the colleges of Engineering, Science, Mines and Earth Sciences, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social and Behavioral Science.

Office for Equity and Diversity Awarded Prestigious Grants
The Suder Foundation (TSF) has awarded two grants to the University of Utah’s Office for Equity and Diversity that are designated for the creation of The Suder Scholars Program, a new national scholarship program designed to improve graduation rates of selected first-generation college students. The two grants, totaling $70,000, consist of a $10,000 scholar profile grant and a one-year $60,000 planning grant. Upon the successful completion of the planning grant year, the Office for Equity and Diversity will receive scholarship support and seed funding for program operations from TSF for a pilot cohort of up to 20 first-generation students. The foundation is providing financial, academic, psychological, and social assistance for Suder Scholars at selected state universities throughout the United States.


U to Develop Climate Action Plan for Campus
Since taking the helm in July as the director of the Office of Sustainability, Myron Willson MArch’97, a local architect and adjunct professor at the U, has begun heading up a number of projects with a primary focus on the U’s Climate Action Plan. The plan is a requirement of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment—a document signed by President Young on Earth Day 2008 that now has the signatures of the presidents of more than 650 colleges and universities across the United States—committing each institution to achieving varying degrees of climate neutrality. Using a greenhouse gas inventory completed in May 2009, the Office of Sustainability will be working with offices and departments across campus to develop a comprehensive action plan to guide the U of U toward becoming climate neutral. The plan will focus on carbon reductions within the areas of transportation, food systems, building design, and curriculum.

In Memoriam

Marvin G. Hess BS’50 MS’53, 83, a former University of Utah head wrestling coach

Robert “Bob” Mason BS’50, 89, a former professor of medicinal chemistry at the U

Emil Smith, 97, a former University of Utah professor and pioneer in protein chemistry

V. Douglas Snow ex’48, 82, former professor of art and chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the U

Jodi Wetzel BA’65 MA’67, 66, former instructor of composition at the U and the first director of the Women’s Studies Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver

For more on these and other memoria, click here.

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