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Richter, Fitzgerald named to newly endowed chairs

Arthur F. Koskinas Chair in Neuroscience, third Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research approved by board

UMass Medical School Communications

December 09, 2015
  Joel Richter, PhD

Joel Richter, PhD

  Katherine Fitzgerald, PhD

Katherine Fitzgerald, PhD

UMass Medical School will invest two faculty members into newly endowed chairs next fall, Chancellor Michael F. Collins has announced. The chairs were approved by University of Massachusetts Board at its December meeting.

Joel D. Richter, PhD, professor of molecular medicine, is the inaugural recipient of the Arthur F. Koskinas Chair in Neuroscience, which has been established thanks to the generosity of long-time Worcester resident Helen P. Koskinas and her family in support of cutting-edge research at UMass Medical School.

“Dr. Richter is among the brightest stars in our renowned molecular medicine program, a highly accomplished scientist who is respected by his peers, students and mentees,” said Chancellor Collins.

While undergoing medical treatment at UMass Memorial, Arthur Koskinas established the Arthur F. and Helen P. Koskinas Professorship in Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology in 2002, which is held by C. Robert Matthews, PhD, chair and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology.

Dr. Richter’s research has focused on the molecular biology of neuronal synaptic plasticity and learning and memory; the RNA regulation of neurologic disease, including Fragile X syndrome; translational control and RNA processing, as well as RNA-protein interactions. Dr. Richter has recently made foundational contributions to the understanding of the molecular pathology of Fragile X syndrome, identifying it as a fundamental disorder of the role of protein synthesis in neurons. He is currently the principal investigator for two NIH RO1 grants; the program director for an NIH U54 center grant; and has been the beneficiary of support from numerous other organizations including the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes and the Charles A. Hood Foundation.

Katherine A. Fitzgerald, PhD, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology and director of the Program in Innate Immunity, was named the recipient of the third Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research endowed chair.

The Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chairs were established through the generosity of donors to the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Scholars Fund. Dr. Fitzgerald joins Vivian Budnik, PhD, chair and professor of neurobiology, and Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine, associate dean for clinical and translational science and director of the MD/PhD Program, as WFBR Chairs.

“Dr. Fitzgerald is an internationally recognized leader in the field of innate immunity,” Collins said. “Her extraordinary research includes seminal discoveries in the mechanisms of the innate immune system that underlie inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as host defenses against infection.”

She joined the medical school in 2001, after completing her PhD and post-doctoral training at Trinity College in Dublin. Her groundbreaking insights have helped to advance the understanding of inflammasome activation in health and disease.

Drs. Richter and Fitzgerald have authored or co-authored hundreds of original peer-reviewed papers, many of which have appeared in the most prestigious scientific journals, including Nature, Science, Cell, Cell Biology, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Immunology and Nature Medicine. They each have contributed greatly to biomedical sciences through extensive teaching and mentoring activities and serve as ambassadors for the institution’s rich, robust and collaborative scientific community.

Drs. Richter and Fitzgerald will be formally invested at next year’s Convocation and Investiture ceremonies.