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Chancellors Club Award recipients specialize in drug research and mathematics education

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

LAWRENCE — A scientist specializing in transport proteins at the University of Kansas Medical Center and a mathematician with more than 50 years of teaching successes at KU will be honored respectively for their research and teaching by KU Endowment’s Chancellors Club.

Bruno Hagenbuch has been selected as the 2019 Chancellors Club Research Award recipient. Jack Porter has been selected as the 2019 Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award recipient. Each will receive a $10,000 award and will be recognized at the Oct. 25 Chancellors Club celebration in Lawrence.

Bruno Hagenbuch

Bruno Hagenbuch is a pioneer and leader in the discovery and functional characterization of various transport proteins — that is, how drugs and toxic chemicals get into and out of the body, and in particular into and out of the liver.

Hagenbuch came to KU Medical Center in 2005 as a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics, and he became vice chair of that department in 2012. Hagenbuch, who was born in Switzerland, completed postdoctoral work at UCLA and returned to his home country to start his work on transporters at the University of Zurich. While there, he identified and cloned the first liver transporter protein, a finding which he published in 1991 and which has been cited more than 500 times.

Hartmut Jaeschke, University Distinguished Professor and chair of KU’s Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics, said in his nomination letter that Hagenbuch’s research is essential to understanding the pathophysiology of many diseases, drug actions and interactions, and drug toxicity.

“Bruno’s work impacts research in liver and kidney diseases, cancer and many other issues,” he wrote. “His research is also vital for drug discovery and development.”

Hagenbuch said he enjoys the nature and variety of his work — not just research but also training students to become successful scientists in their own right.

“Every day has something new and different,” he said. “It’s never boring.”

Other career highlights:

  • His discoveries about drug transport have changed evaluation standards for drugs that are in development in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide.
  • Hagenbuch has cloned and characterized several transporting polypeptides called OATPs that are important in the uptake of numerous popular drugs and can be targets for adverse interactions. He also was instrumental in creating a new nomenclature for those OATPs that was published and has been cited more than 900 times.
  • He has published more than 130 peer-reviewed manuscripts and chapters, with 55 of them cited over 100 times, and 15 of them cited more than 300 times. He is among the highest-cited scientists at KU Medical Center.

Jack Porter

Jack Porter is the Balfour S. Jeffrey Teaching Professor in the Department of Mathematics and has a special interest in topology, which is the mathematical study of spatial objects such as curves and surfaces. He has been teaching mathematics at KU for almost 54 years, and in those many decades, he’s had a chance to lead and inspire thousands of students through many different classes.

“I’ve seen a lot of variety, and I’ve been able to teach a number of different math courses because I’ve asked,” Porter said. “I didn’t want to get stuck in one or two courses in my research specialty.”

Margaret Bayer, KU professor of mathematics, noted in her letter of nomination that during the time that Porter was the chair of the department — 1999 to 2009 — the quality of instruction was just one of the areas that saw improvement.

“We saw an increased emphasis on quality teaching in the department, an increase in the number of mathematics majors and minors, a strengthening of our graduate student population, a revision of the curriculum for engineering students and the establishment of the UKanTeach program,” Bayer wrote.

Students lauded Porter in letters supporting his nomination, characterizing his teaching approach as “mindful and open,” the “directness and sincerity” of his personality and his collaborative, hands-on spirit and willingness to help.

Other career highlights:

  • Porter has directed 14 doctoral candidates, four of whom won the department’s Florence Black Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was principal adviser for 19 master’s students and was on graduate committees of an additional 97 final exams for master’s and doctoral degrees.
  • He’s received many awards for teaching, including the Max Wells Teaching Award in Mathematics in 2011, the Outstanding Mentor Award from the Graduate and Professional Association in 2003 and the 2001 Louise Byrd Graduate Educator Award.
  • He has coordinated math competitions, including coaching the KU team for the prestigious Putnam competition (which placed fifth in the nation one year).

The Chancellors Club, formed in 1977 by KU Endowment, recognizes both donors of major gifts designated for specific purposes on any of KU’s campuses and annual donors to the Greater KU Fund.

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.