Richard S. Zitomer

Richard Zitomer of the Department of Biological Sciences has been at the University since 1977. His primary research, on the mechanism of gene expression in yeast, has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for 19 years.

In that time, he has also become internationally recognized as one of the leading experts on how genes are regulated by availability of oxygen. In addition, his genetic studies in yeast have been applied to higher organisms, including humans — timely applications, in that yeast research has now catapulted to the front of genomic studies.

Interest in Zitomer's work is universal because yeast, although a single-celled organism, is a good model for gene regulation in higher organisms. He has identified genes that repress gene expression in response to oxygen and others that activate the same genetic targets in the presence of oxygen. In addition to simply identifying the genes, he has been at the forefront in determining how the regulatory proteins specifically recognize their DNA targets and other proteins with which they must interact.

The level of the publications in which it has appeared evidences the high quality of Zitomer's research. His only collaborators on his papers are the students he has personally trained and who work by his side. He learns new methods through the progress of the work he does, thus giving his students the benefit of an extraordinary range of experimental expertise.

While compiling this enviable record, Zitomer has continued to teach a full schedule. His NIH career award could have been used to relieve him of his teaching responsibilities, but he maintained his normal class load and used the funds to enhance his research laboratory.

Zitomer received an Alexander von Humbolt Fellowship to support research in Germany on a sabbatical leave. He is a member of the editorial board of the prestigious journal Molecular and Cellular Biology and is chair of the Genetics Study Section at the NIH, which reviews and ranks research grants in genetics.

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