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Vanvig Lifetime Achievement Award - 2014

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Don L. Jarvis

Vanvig faculty achievement award recipient shows no sign of slowing

2014 Vanvig Lifetime Achievement Award - Don Jarvis

Those migrating the digital highway to Don Jarvis' molecular biology faculty website will spot him sporting a blue baseball cap next to a sparse, five-link box to his right.

Such simplicity contradicts the academic performance and personal expectations of this year's recipient of the Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.

To wit:

* 79 primary author peer-reviewed papers, 29 reviews and book chapters

* 40-plus grants

* Two start-up biotechnology companies

* 12 patents

* 10 graduate students

"Part of the reason Don has enjoyed such a high level of funding success is the quality and impact of his science," wrote fellow molecular biology Professor David Fay when Jarvis received the George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Faculty Award last year. The award is the highest honor a faculty member at UW can receive. "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."

The Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award

Andrew Vanvig served as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics for 25 years and was a faculty member for 35.

Vanvig created the Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 2010 to honor a senior faculty member in the college for lifetime accomplishments in teaching, scholarship/creative activity, and service.

Professors in the college who have a minimum of 15 years of service are eligible.

Efforts Create Company

Jarvis was recipient of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station Researcher of the Year Award in 2012 and was selected to give the 2012 President's Speaker Series Talk. In 2011, he had formed GlycoBac with former UW student Christoph Geisler. The company works to produce glycoprotein drugs using insect cells. To visit Jarvis' homepage, see

Since its inception, GlycoBac has had four Small Business Innovation Research proposals awarded by the National Institutes of Health with total support of over $1.4 million to support efforts to develop new platforms for manufacturing biotechnology products.

Jarvis joined UW in 1998 from Texas A&M University as an associate professor with tenure and became a full professor in 2000. 

"His work spans virology, glycobiology and biotechnology, and he enjoys an international reputation in these areas," says Associate Professor Mark Stayton, head of the Department of Molecular Biology.

Blue-collar Pedigree

That blue cap perhaps symbolizing blue-collar is fitting. His parents - father a welder with Electric Boat Co. (No motorboat business - they build submarines for the U.S. Navy), his mother sorting potatoes in one of Idaho's many potato packing plants - wanted to boost him from such work and so emphasized education. His father made clear Jarvis needed to stay in school for a better life.

A lot of his father's friends were first-generation Americans.

"Boy, they were hard on me," recalled Jarvis when he looked back on his career in 2012. "I remember many of those guys telling me, "I better not see you here anytime but summertime, or you'll have to deal with me."

His first-semester college flirtation with becoming an accountant ended with him leaving school and driving a logging truck for nine months - then returned to school and took a microbiology course. He's really never left.

Mentors and professors were vigorous and demanding, which helped cement career habits. The work ethic left a mark on him as surely as the Nautilus, the first atomic submarine, wears his mother's name, Nancy, welded by his father between bulkheads. Mamie Eisenhower slapped the boat with champagne as it slid down the ways to the river January 21, 1954.  It is now moored on the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut, as part of the Submarine Force Museum.

Academic Career Path

Jarvis earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Idaho State University and his Ph.D. in virology at Baylor College of Medicine.

When he entered Baylor, "I felt I walked in ready and able to compete with anyone in that school, who were among the best in the country," he recalls. "I certainly was not in that peer group at the time. But, I had the work ethic developed by my family and undergrad and master's professors.  A good work ethic has always been a strength for me, and that's driven not only by other people but by a basic interest in doing science. I was lucky to land in the world of virology. It really turned and continues to turn my crank."

Jarvis also teaches in the department and, for his first 13 years at UW, in the Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho Medical Education Program. He developed and still teaches a required course in the graduate program "which is, in essence, a "boot-camp" in scientific thinking and communication," says Stayton.

Jarvis sets the highest standards of any instructor Fay knows, and pushes the students hard and extracts the best from them.

Adds fellow Professor Peter Thorsness, "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."

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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of Wyoming

Department #3354

1000 E. University

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-4133

Fax: (307) 766-4030


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