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From medical research to American literature, 2015 Chancellors Club professors cover many bases

October 1, 2015
A University of Kansas Medical Center researcher who has discovered compounds that give hope to patients diagnosed with sickle cell disease and other genetic blood disorders, and a longtime KU English professor revered by students and colleagues alike are being honored respectively for their research and teaching by KU Endowment’s Chancellors Club.
Kenneth Peterson, Ph.D.

Kenneth Peterson, Ph.D., has been named the 2015 recipient of the Chancellors Club Research Award. James Carothers, Ph.D., is the 2015 recipient of the Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award. Each will receive a $10,000 award and will be honored at the October 30 Chancellors Club celebration in Lawrence.

Kenneth Peterson
A faculty member at KU Medical Center since 1998, Kenneth Peterson is known not only for his research, but also for his excellence in training graduate and post-graduate students.

“Working in the lab and discovering something nobody ever knew before is hugely satisfying,” said Peterson. “Teaching others how to do experiments and seeing the look on their faces when they discover something new is simply exhilarating.”

In nominating Peterson, Joseph Fontes, Ph.D., James Calvet, Ph.D., and Michael Soares, Ph.D., praised him for his research that uncovered key mechanisms by which DNA elements called locus control regions affect genes, and for his identification of protein factors required in the process. Dr. Peterson devised a way to dissect the genetic mechanisms regulating the globin genes, which are spread over a large chromosomal segment in humans. By using yeast artificial chromosomes containing human globin chromosomal fragments inserted into the mouse genome, the effects of changes made in the human DNA can be tested in these transgenic mice.

“This technical innovation was a seminal breakthrough that led to a quantum leap in understanding globin gene regulation and cemented Dr. Peterson’s position among the leaders in his field,” the nominators wrote.

They also praised Peterson’s active role in leadership at the medical center. He currently directs the Center for Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology within the Institute for Reproductive Health and Regenerative Medicine and is Vice Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He also has served on a number of advisory boards and planning committees related to the expansion of research activities at the medical center.

The nomination letter noted Peterson’s continuing influence on the future of science through the students he has trained: “Dr. Peterson’s selfless participation in these efforts has encouraged countless students to follow careers in science and technology.”

Career highlights

  • Having served on 34 master’s and doctoral committees, Peterson has a long history of mentoring students and advancing education. He has supervised two doctoral students and two master’s students in completing their degrees, overseen a number of postdoctoral students and mentored junior faculty. In addition, he has hosted numerous high school, undergraduate and medical students, as well as visiting scholars from Brazil, in his laboratory for research internships
  • In addition to Dr. Peterson’s research, teaching and leadership, he has been published in more than 25 peer-reviewed journals that have accumulated more than 700 citations while at KU Medical Center. During his career, he has produced a total of 91 peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters. He has contributed to successful grant applications and served in various scientific outreach efforts related to his work. He volunteers as a judge in the Science Pioneers Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair, and he is a member of the organization’s board of directors. For many years, he worked as a teacher and mentor for the PRIDE Summer Institute Programs to Increase Diversity in health-related research through the Georgia Regents University.
  • Peterson’s awards at KU Medical Center include the Self Faculty Scholar award for research and mentoring in 2001 and the Investigator Research Award in 2001. In 2009 and 2010, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to go to Brazil.

James Carothers
Renowned KU Professor of English James Carothers may be as well known for his teaching of Faulkner, Hemingway, Shakespeare and American humor as he is for his love of the literature of baseball and for the teaching of writing skills.

James Carothers

Carothers described basic instructions he gives to his students: “The first thing is to read and re-read, the next thing is to write and re-write, and the final thing is to have a little fun with it. ”

Year after year, students have given excellent evaluation ratings for Dr. Carothers, praising his teaching, his passion for and deep knowledge of the material, his ability to engage students in dynamic and meaningful conversation about subjects, and his open-mindedness. At the same time, students describe him as a demanding teacher whose exacting standards improve their writing and critical thinking skills.

Carothers began teaching at KU in 1970, as an assistant professor. He became an associate professor in 1980, and a full professor in 1986. While teaching at KU, he served four terms as Faculty Senate president. He also served as an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1986 to 1997. In addition, he served as interim associate provost for academic services, and as acting director of the University Honors Program.

Anna Neill, Ph.D., chair of the Department of English, noted that Carothers will retire in August 2016. “He will be sorely missed by students and colleagues alike,” she said. “As a gifted instructor and a devoted mentor, he has helped many generations of students navigate a successful path through college or graduate school, and in the process inspired great loyalty and affection for KU and the Department of English. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of an award that recognizes a career dedicated to students’ achievements and ultimately their happiness.”

Career highlights

  • Carothers was the director of over 40 undergraduate honors theses and numerous independent study projects. As a graduate advisor, he oversaw completion of 16 Ph.D. dissertations and eight master’s theses, and he chaired 11 doctoral comprehensive exam committees.
  • Widely published, he wrote “William Faulkner’s Short Stories” in 1985, served as founding-coeditor of “The Faulkner Journal,” and co-wrote “Reading Faulkner’s Collected Stories” in 2006. In addition, he has authored 10 chapters for books and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, along with more than 35 other published articles.
  • Carothers’ many KU honors include the William T. Kemper Teaching Award, the J. Michael Young CLAS Advising Award and the department’s Conger-Gabel Teaching Professor award. In 1992, he was a guest lecturer at the University of Beijing.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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October 1, 2015
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