Dr. Kris Jenner endows professorship to honor his undergraduate mentor Professor Stephen G. Sligar; Susan A. Martinis is named to new School of Molecular and Cellular Biology professorship

Kris jenner web

Dr. Kris Jenner

To recognize the importance of faculty contributions to science and education and to acknowledge Dr. Sligar’s mentorship, Dr. Jenner created the Stephen G. Sligar professorship in 2016. The Investiture was held on October 28, 2016 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Dr. Jenner was an undergraduate research student in Professor Stephen G. Sligar's Biochemistry laboratory and also a quarterback for the Illinois football team. As an outstanding scholar, although pre-admitted to Johns Hopkins Medical School, he received a Marshall Scholarship to attend Oxford for a Master's Degree in molecular biology.

Due to his accomplishments, he was offered the opportunity to stay on for an additional year to complete a D.Phil. He then matriculated and graduated from Johns Hopkins with his medical degree and completed two years of a general surgery residency before making the decision to pursue his interest in finance. Following a successful career at T. Rowe Price as a health care portfolio analyst and Vice President, Dr. Jenner founded Rock Springs Capital Management, a hedge fund based in Baltimore, MD, in 2013.

Dr. Jenner credits his research experience as an undergraduate at Illinois as an important factor in his career successes in medicine and business, which led him to create the Jenner Family Fund. The fund provided the income to launch an annual awards program for Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) and Biochemistry undergraduate students to work in a research laboratory for the summer in order to provide the basis for a Senior Research Thesis in MCB or Biochemistry.

To recognize the importance of faculty contributions to science and education and to acknowledge Dr. Sligar’s mentorship, Dr. Jenner created the Stephen G. Sligar professorship in 2016. This generous gift from the Jenner Family Faculty Excellence Fund recognizes Dr. Sligar, who is currently Swanlund Endowed Chair, director of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry. Dr. Kris H. Jenner, M.D., D. Phil (B.S. UIUC Biochemistry, ’84 lives in Annapolis, MD, with his wife, Dr. Susan Cummings, and their three children. He grew up in Mascoutah, Illinois.

The School of Molecular and Cellular Biology is honored to announce that Professor Susan Martinis, Head of the Department of Biochemistry, has been named the Stephen G. Sligar Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“It is an honor to recognize Dr. Martinis’ contributions to science and, importantly, her dedication to teaching and mentorship,” said Dr. Jenner. “Dr. Sligar’s early influence on my career was profound, and this gift reflects our family’s strong belief to give back to those whose tireless efforts are, in part, responsible for our well-being today. It is great to support the career of another one of Dr. Sligar’s mentees.”

“It was a complete surprise when Kris contacted me and expressed an interest in supporting the undergraduate educational mission at the University of Illinois,” said Professor Sligar. “I was doubly surprised and honored to learn of his wish to recognize my input into his scientific education and career decisions. As an educator, one does not often realize the impact one is having on students in the classroom and laboratory. To have this role recognized through an endowed position is a testament to the importance of undergraduate education in our society. Choosing the initial holder of this professorship was made by three National Academy Members who have primary responsibilities outside of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. It was a great honor to have Dr. Susan Martinis, who earned her Ph.D. with me, be selected.”

Professor Martinis is an internationally respected scholar in the field of RNA-protein interactions and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases whose work is most currently supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the W.M. Keck Foundation. She was a founding member of the National Institutes of Health Molecular Genetics A study section and is known for high-quality teaching and mentorship. Professor Martinis provides key guidance to the Department, School, College and University and critical leadership in the recruitment and mentoring of faculty. She is currently involved in the transition from the UIC-College of Medicine to the new Carle-UIUC College of Medicine.

After graduating with a PhD (’90) from Illinois in Biochemistry, Dr. Martinis joined Paul Schimmel's laboratory at MIT as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Schimmel is the founder of multiple successful biotech startups and recruited Martinis as one of the initial members of Cubist Pharmaceuticals. Martinis left Cambridge in 1995 for the University of Houston and was recruited back to a tenured position at Illinois in 2005. Since 2009, Martinis has been Head of the Department of Biochemistry and served for one year as interim Associate Dean for the Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is currently President-Elect of the American Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry.

“This is an extraordinary honor to be named to the inaugural Stephen G. Sligar Professorship. Dr. Sligar mentors by great example as a highly creative scholar who blazes trails across the broad interdisciplinary landscape. His work has been frontier-changing and paves the way for others. His long-term very dedicated leadership in Urbana has been marked by quests for excellence in education and research,” said Professor Martinis. “I am deeply grateful to Dr. Jenner for his generosity and also his investment into the biochemical and biological sciences in Urbana. His appreciation of Dr. Sligar’s mentorship and impact on his career mirrors my own. In the same highly successful way that Dr. Sligar manages his interdisciplinary research enterprise that knows no barriers, Dr. Jenner has fused the basic and biomedical sciences with finance to bring real impact to the public sector.”

An official investiture ceremony will be scheduled in the fall semester of 2016.

Posted August 23, 2016.