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Higher Education
UTMB hires world-renowned scientists
News Release
Friday, October 05, 2018

GALVESTON, Texas Two world-renowned scientists, a husband and wife team, Michael Sheetz and Linda Kenney, will soon join the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Sheetz, Ph.D., who pioneered the field of mechanobiology, has received multiple, highly prestigious international awards including the 2012 Albert Lasker Medical Research Award, considered the “American Nobel” for medicine, as well as the 2012 Wiley Prize and 2013 Massry Prize.

Kenney, Ph.D., an expert microbiologist and biophysicist known for her work on salmonella, a member of the American Academy of Microbiology and is a Distinguished Lecturer of the American Society of Microbiology, uses super-resolution imaging, single particle tracking and atomic force microscopy in her study of salmonella.

“Having Drs. Sheetz and Kenney join our highly accomplished research enterprise will create extraordinary opportunities for collaboration and further scientific discovery,” said Dr. David L. Callender, President of UTMB. 

The pair come to UTMB from the National University of Singapore, where Sheetz served as the Director of the Mechanobiology Institute of Singapore and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore. The field of mechanobiology studies how physical forces and mechanical properties alter cell behavior and fates. It is an emerging scientific area that brings together expertise from physics, biology and chemistry.

Sheetz and his research team discovered that cancer cells are able to grow in the wrong mechanical environments, thanks to alterations of certain proteins. Further research could lead to more effective cancer therapies that mitigate unregulated and invasive cell growth by restoring proteins to their proper levels.

Both Sheetz and Kenney have received the University of Texas System’s Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STAR) Program awards, designed to attract and retain highly qualified faculty to UT System universities. Sheetz will receive a $1.4 million award and Kenney will receive a $650,000 award from the STAR program to purchase equipment and establish their respective research laboratories. Sheetz will also receive a $6 million award from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas.

“Recruiting these two world-class researchers to UTMB will be transformative for the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and UTMB,” said Dr. Mariano Garcia-Blanco, department chair. “Dr. Sheetz is a remarkably creative scientist who has made seminal contributions to cell biology. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of mechanobiology. Likewise, Dr. Kenney is an expert microbiologist and biophysicist who has made seminal contributions on how medically relevant gut bacteria respond to stressful stimuli. She brings to UTMB a remarkably creative and rigorous program of study in an area that is of evident medical importance.”

The researchers are expected to officially join the UTMB faculty in January.

“We are looking forward to relocating back to the US in a state with strong support for biomedical research,” Kenney and Sheetz said. “What clinched the deal was the opportunity to work in a department with a vibrant exciting new department head who has hired outstanding junior researchers.”

Remembering Jim Guidry M3 Global Medical Missions

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