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April 22, 2013 — A world-class scientist and entrepreneur who goes out of his way to help his students and colleagues has won the University of Wyoming’s highest faculty honor.
Molecular Biology Professor Don Jarvis has been chosen as the 2013 recipient of the George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Faculty Award, named for UW’s 13th president.
“Don embodies all of the qualities that one would associate with an outstanding academic, including excellence in research, teaching and service,” wrote David Fay, professor of molecular biology and director of UW’s Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences Program. “In addition, Don is an incredibly generous colleague who takes time to assist anyone in need.”
Jarvis, who joined the UW faculty as an associate professor in 1998 and became a professor in 2000, is internationally renowned for his work on using genetically engineered insect cells for manufacturing vaccines, diagnostics or therapeutics for use in human and veterinary medicine.
“Don has built the reputation of being the ‘go to’ man worldwide on all matters concerning glycoprotein expression in insect cells, both in academic research labs and in industry,” wrote Loy Volkman, professor emerita in plant and microbial biology at the University of California-Berkeley. “His outstanding expertise in both virology and glycobiology is in evidence by his service on editorial review boards of journals dedicated to these two topics… It is a rare person who can successfully achieve such breadth in their professional expertise.”
Jarvis has received more than 30 grants from the National Institutes of Health and other entities for his research. He holds eight patents and has filed 10 patent applications and invention disclosures. He was the recipient of UW’s 2012 Outstanding Research Award.
“In addition to publishing more papers in top journals than anyone at Wyoming of whom I am aware, Don has consistently had an astonishingly high level of support for his work,” Fay wrote. “In fact, he is one of the very few faculty members at UW whose salary is consistently more than paid for by the indirect costs of his extramural grants.
“Part of the reason that Don has enjoyed such a high level of funding success is the quality and impact of his science. But it also has much to do with Don’s work ethic. Don continues to work with the urgency of a first-year assistant professor who has yet to land their first grant.”
Jarvis’s scientific expertise not only is of academic interest, but also is relevant to solutions for real-world problems. In 2011, he helped form a new company, GlycoBac, which is working to produce glycoprotein drugs using insect cells. The company will commercialize his academic laboratory group’s research and promises to further diversify Wyoming’s economy, with the ultimate goal of helping find treatments for human diseases.
“I believe that if you were to ask any scientist for their ideal career arc, they would describe one that resembles Don’s -- make important discoveries that push forward the frontiers of science and use that knowledge to improve the human condition,” wrote fellow molecular biology Professor Peter Thorsness.
His colleagues also describe Jarvis as an outstanding mentor to young scientists, including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and young faculty members. He has developed a “capstone” seminar course for graduate students in molecular biology, as well as a course that allows all undergraduate majors to meet and speak with visiting scientists. Jarvis’s students consistently give him high marks in their evaluations of his classes.
“As a teacher, Don is outstanding,” Fay wrote. “He has the highest standards of any instructor I have known. He pushes students very hard and extracts the very best from them.”
Jarvis earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from Idaho State University before receiving his Ph.D. in virology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, in 1986. Before coming to UW, he worked as a research scientist, assistant professor and associate professor at Texas A&M University.
University of Wyoming Molecular Biology Professor Don Jarvis is the recipient of the 2013 George Duke Humphrey Award, UW’s highest faculty honor. (UW Photo)