Department of Biomolecular Chemistry celebrates 100th anniversary

In late May 2022, the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry hosted a symposium to celebrate its 100th anniversary with more than 200 alumni, friends, and current members.

Individuals from the department gathered at the Terrace
Individuals from the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry gather at the Memorial Union Terrace to celebration the department’s 100th anniversary.

The event kicked off on the evening of Friday, May 27 at Memorial Union with a welcome reception and talks from two distinguished alumni: Amy Pasquinelli, PhD, professor of biology at University of California San Diego, and Andreas Kuhn, PhD, senior vice president of RNA biochemistry and manufacturing at BioNTech. The opening session provided a stimulating look at the central role that RNA plays in gene expression and how this knowledge inspired COVID-19 vaccine development.

On Saturday a diverse group of twelve alumni proudly shared how their training and experiences at UW–Madison propelled their future success. Presentations by the four most junior biomolecular chemistry faculty — Feyza Engin, PhD; Melissa M. Harrison, PhD; Gaelen Hess, PhD; and Peter W. Lewis, PhD — highlighted the exciting collaborative and innovative science driving the department’s future research directions.

Amy Pasquinelli, PhD, giving a presentation on RNA
Amy Pasquinelli, PhD, professor of biology at University of California San Diego, is an alumna of the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry and gave a research presentation at the anniversary celebration.

The day concluded with a banquet dinner followed by a historical talk given by James Dahlberg, PhD, emeritus professor of biomolecular chemistry, highlighting important milestones from the founding of Physiological Chemistry (the department’s name until 1991) by its first chair, Harold Bradley in 1921, all the way to the present. The evening concluded with a forward-looking inspirational talk by SMPH Dean Robert N. Golden, MD.

“The 100th anniversary of the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry provided a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our past and present faculty, students, postdocs, and staff,” said Patricia Kiley, PhD, chair of the department. “It was inspiring to have so many alumni return for our celebration and share with us how their time in the department impacted their future careers.”

Read more about the department’s vibrant history here.