Emily Bates, BS’97

It just so happened that the day that the University of Colorado closed down its labs, including Dr. Emily Bates’, she was in labor giving birth to her second child. “I was having conversations with my students about what we needed to do from the hospital bed,” she says. “My husband could not join me for the birth of our son. Our daughter couldn’t meet her brother at the hospital. As soon as it looked like our son and I were healthy, we were sent home.”

Needless to say, the research in Bates’ lab where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, (Developmental Biology) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, slowed considerably. “We have not had the opportunity to bring new undergraduate and high school interns into the lab this summer like we usually do, but we have continued to work with one high school student and one undergraduate doing some data analysis from home this summer.”  The lab currently hosts four graduate students as part of the team, but only two people are allowed in the lab at a time.”

At the University of Utah the ACCESS program was key to her success, providing her a cohort of women who were friends and study partners. Established in 1991, ACCESS, a College of Science program now in its 30th year, provides freshmen and transfer students, from a variety of backgrounds, with a scholarship and a supportive path into STEM degrees and careers. For Bates, the program encouraged, she says, “role models to normalize being a woman in science.”

While a scholarship and the rigorous undergraduate research program were main factors in her selection of the School of Biological Sciences, she recalls how fortunate she was to get the right research mentor.  That mentor was Dr. Anthea Letsou in Human Genetics on the University Health campus. “I learned how to test a hypothesis from her, how to use flies to learn about developmental signaling, and how to read a scientific paper.” Perhaps equal to the actual science, Bates learned how to present her research to others. Letsou, she says, “had more confidence in my potential as a scientist than anyone I had met. It was because of her encouragement that I applied to top tier graduate schools.” The whole experience—of the research mentor coupled with ACCESS—gave her confidence and “really jump started my career.”

Photo credit Andrew Silverman

It takes a combination of targeted programs, mentoring and true grit on the part of every student to succeed as Bates did at U Biology. Along the way, she ran cross country for the U her freshman year before turning to marathons (She’s run 18 of them, including as a US representative in Kenya.) Bates credits the unique environment at the U which converged for her, facilitating her graduation in 1997 with a BS and her acceptance to Harvard University for graduate school where she earned her PhD. Returning to Utah, she taught at Brigham Young University for four years before accepting her current position at Colorado.

That was, of course, before COVID-19 reared its head and certainly changed the vector of how she is pursuing her career in pediatrics. She advises students to find a research opportunity with a good mentor and “stick with it,” even during the pandemic. There are skills that can be acquired “at home,” she continues, “that would be useful in labs as soon as they open. For example, learning to critically read a scientific paper, or write programs (in Matlab, R, or Python) to interpret data would be useful in a lot of labs right now.”

In the meantime, she and her family are settling in on the other side of the Rockies from Salt Lake City until a “new normal” makes its appearance. “Luckily,” she says of that singular time in the hospital virtually alone and delivering a child, “my mom had flown in before everything shut down, so she could help us for the first couple of weeks. But other family members have not felt safe flying to visit and meet the newest addition.

“Personally, that has been the hardest part of this pandemic.”

      You can read about the history of the ACCESS program here

 
by David Pace
 

Arie Sitthichai Mobley, BS’00

When Arie Sitthichai Mobley (BS'2000) began teaching at a small liberal arts university in a department for undergraduate neuroscience, she says there were many books on stem cells, but they were either too broadly or narrowly focused, or too advanced for an undergraduate course. The lack of an appropriate textbook motivated her to write her own aimed at undergraduate neuroscience students. Her experiences in the lab and classroom coalesced in a clear vision of what undergraduates needed to learn about stem cells and neurogenesis as well as the level of information required. The book is designed to help students appreciate the potential, and understand the limitations of stem cells, while providing a basic knowledge of stem cell physiology.

Science Direct, in a review of the book, reported that "this early graduate level reference describes [neural stem cells'] physiology and potential for medicine and provides students with fundamental stem cell information. An overview of stem cell sources in the human body and a brief mention of relevant diseases provide context for the value of this knowledge."

Mobley earned her diploma from South Sevier High School in Monroe, Utah in 1991 and, after graduating with a bachelor's from the School of Biological Sciences, continued at the University of Utah, earning a PhD in neuroscience. Her dissertation was on olfactory sensory neurons of the squid, Lolligungula brevis. (The squid were shipped to her in large bags of water from Galveston, Texas.) Following her graduate work at the U, Mobley did her post doctorate at Yale University where she first developed an interest in adult neurogenesis in disease states. From there she became an assistant professor at Western New England University (WNEU) in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Text book authored by Bio Alumna Arie S. MobleyAfter teaching for four years, she moved to Bar Harbor, Maine, where she is currently associate study director at the independent, nonprofit biomedical research The Jackson Laboratory. The Lab is dedicated to contributing to a future of better health care based on the unique genetic makeup of each individual. Mobley's work is focused on understanding and investigating age-related olfaction deterioration that often precedes neurodegenerative disease.

Her research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Comparative Neurology, Trends in Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Aging and PNAS. Dr. Mobley has received several grants including the Ruth Kirstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) at the graduate level under Dr. Mary T. Lucero and at the postdoctoral level under Dr. Charles Greer. She went on to obtain an NIH Small Grant Program (R03) award that was instrumental in beginning her independent research program at WNEU.

"In my position as a Study Director I interface directly with customers to assess customer needs and ensure accurate capture of project specifications in order to develop detailed project plans," Mobley writes on The Jackson Lab's website. "I ensure that plans are successfully tracked and seamlessly executed by ensuring that staff understand and are compliant with all policies and procedures to ensure the most efficient operation, and provide customers with the highest quality scientific service.

"I am uniquely positioned to develop and execute strategic innovation and improvement initiatives, with the objectives to increase capacity, expand product offerings, improve service quality and improve customer experience. I participate in research validation data analysis and support implementation of new techniques and processes."

With her husband Michael, the Mobleys have one daughter.

 

 
by David Pace
 

Clifford Stocks, BS’80

In these uncertain times when “the new normal” of our lives has yet to emerge, SBS alumnus Clifford Stocks (BS’80) opens a window to fresh air on the COVID-19 pandemic. That updraft comes from his scientific orientation and is underscored by his enduring ambition to use his training in biology and beyond to elevate the health of his fellow humans.

“At the end of the day the COVID-19 pandemic is a blip,” he reminds us. “Yes, it caused and will cause many premature deaths and a disruption of lifestyle, and in many cases irreversible economic burden. However, the biomedical complex in the world has become so sophisticated we will have treatment solutions and a vaccine in short order.” He continues on the updraft with a coda:  “And the world will go on as before, but hopefully this pandemic will help people remember that life can be fleeting and to stop and think about what is important to them. And to let those close to them know they are loved.”

It’s a take on this singular time that the world desperately needs right now, a perspective rooted in valuing not only science but the inviolable drive of people to persevere and to assemble ourselves into the collaborative army of our common humanity.

Stocks knows something about perseverance in both the clinical realm and in that of business. Raised in Wyoming before arriving in Salt Lake City, he wrestled in high school and received a scholarship to the University of Utah. “I wrestled four years under coach Marvin Hess,” he says. “This was the only way I could afford to attend college.”

His memories of the U include warm summer nights, trips to the desert—"the heavy focus on the outdoors and exploring the beauty and wonder of Utah”–epitomized by the slickrock country of Moab where Stocks was born. And his time studying biology gave him the opportunity to learn a range of topics in the biological sciences and to determine that he would “dedicate my life's work toward applying biology to help humankind.”

Not surprisingly, that dedication settled in Stocks largely because of important mentors while at the School of Biological Sciences, including Dr. Mario Capecchi, who would later be awarded the Nobel Prize, and whose biochemistry class “inspired in me a love and respect for the power of molecular biology.”

Dr. Robert Vickery, now SBS professor emeritus, was another formative figure for the budding scientist. He “taught evolution and cemented for me the importance of

Clifford & Renee Stocks

recognizing natural selection processes in many biological systems, says Stocks, “including the ability of cancer to form resistance and the power of differentiation in the immune system to combat infection, disease and neoplasms.”

But it was during his senior year as research technician in the laboratory of Seth Pincus, MD in the Department of Immunology at the U’s Medical Center that the young researcher found a home in science. Stocks stayed on there for four years following his graduation from the U in 1980.

After earning an MBA at the University of Chicago where he also did research in molecular genetics and cell biology, Stocks transitioned from the bench to the business side of biotech when he landed his dream position and stayed for 15 years at ICOS Corporation (before it was acquired in 2007 by Lilly and Company). Following other professional stops Stocks founded Seattle-based biotech company OncoResponse, and as CEO has narrowed his broad range of research interests to immuno-oncology. The company currently has several antibodies directed at modulating immunosuppression of the tumor microenvironment in pre-clinical development and is working toward increasing immunotherapy offerings and improving the lives of cancer patients.

“I have always loved rivers and mountains,” says the former wrestler and kayaker, turning to his life outside the world of the lab and of business. “During the '80s and '90s I was part of a world class whitewater kayaking team that conquered several first descents of rivers in North and South America. Today Stocks is an avid fly fisherman which keeps him near rivers in the mountains.  Along with his wife of 25 years, Renee, and their five children they remain focused on academics, athletics and the outdoors.

“Life and career are a journey so make sure to enjoy it and do not let obstacles weigh you down,” he advises. “Oh, and wear your mask to protect others from the spread of COVID-19, and expect others to do same, to protect you and your loved ones.”

The pandemic may be a “blip,” in the organic scheme of things, but it is also, potentially, a transformative opening for inquiry, discovery and resolution. It is an opportunity for all of us, especially, perhaps, for those at the forefront of public health and in the science-inflected imaginations of those like Clifford Stocks.

 
by David Pace, photo by Cassie Redstone
 

Bill Jack, BA’77

Bill Jack’s undergraduate experience at the University of Utah’s Chemistry Department was foundational and flavored his graduate school and professional path. In hindsight, Bill also recognizes the influence of the few humanities courses he participated in where discussions on James Joyce and American Literature altered his perspective on the world. His only regret about his undergraduate years here at the U, is that he did not slow down and take advantage of broader educational opportunities to learn as much as he could in both the humanities as well as in chemistry.

During one undergraduate summer, Bill was inspired by a single sentence in a physics course that would influence the way he approached the world. The instructor, Dr. Swaggart, began his class by telling the students, “I’m going to teach you about a new way to look at the world.” Bill integrated this sentiment in a variety of different subjects since then, whether in math, social studies, literature, chemistry, anything really. “It’s a different way to see the world, and that broad background just increases your appreciation of the world,” says Bill.

Bill’s educational foundation lead him to a graduate program at Duke University where he thought he would begin a career as a physical biochemist after “tailing” Sidney Velick all summer, but, in an effort to simplify his newlywed life, he asked to work in a lab which quickly altered his path. He ended up being a graduate student with Paul Modrich researching an enzyme that ended up being one of the enzymes that is foundational at New England Biolabs--the only “real” job he’s ever had after he completed his graduate and postdoc work.

Bill has been working at NEB for the past 31 years, and now enjoys the freedom to take risks in his research. He confirms that the company’s founder is absolutely right when he claims that, “New England Biolabs scientists can’t wait to get to work each morning to see how their experiments turned out.” Bill’s latest project is admittedly risky, but that’s what makes it so exciting. The possibility that something might work as he tries to wrap his mind around different ways of analyzing and changing the environment to find a solution for such a fascinating biological phenomena keeps him pushing new boundaries.

Bill is collaborating with a team at Columbia University with an expertise in the biology of the DNA sequence he’s investigating. They’re growing, breaking, and piecing back together the sequences to try to replicate in a test tube the DNA splicing that happens naturally. “I believe that there will be steps along the way that we will have insights into other organisms, other processes whether they be normal ones or ones that cause disease, and there’s also even prospects from a commercial perspective that some of the enzymes involved will be useful in advancing other molecular biology techniques. The company I work for takes enzymes that occur in nature, pulls them out, and characterizes them so they’re available in other workflows to prepare DNA sequences.”

 
by Anne Vivienne
 

Griffin Chure, BS’13

Griffin Chure’s favorite memory of his time at the U was working in Dr. David Blair’s research lab. “During the summers, when class-load was low,” he says, “we characterized the flagellar protein of FIhE, a protein of unknown function." His interactions with Blair and Dr. Sandy Parkinson “firmly set” him on a path towards a career in research.

With a base of confidence provided by mentors in the School of Biological Sciences (SBS), Chure found a natural segue into biophysics, propelled by a course he took from Dr. Saveez Saffarian in 2012. That work “solidified my deep interest in the intersection of biology and physics,” he says, the area in which, after graduation with honors in 2013, he spent his entire graduate career, culminating in 2020 with his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, at the California Institute of Technology Pasadena.

Griffin Chure

Currently, Chure is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Applied Physics at Caltech while next year he will be moving to Stanford University as a National Science Foundation Postdoc Research Fellow to work with Prof. Jonas Cremer. There he will help develop and experimentally test physiologically-grounded mathematical models of bacterial evolution.

Chure’s journey started in the small Green River-side town of Jensen (population 412), seventeen miles from the Colorado state line in Uintah County. “Being raised in rural Utah,” he says, “the option to attend a university with a strong standing in the biological sciences and [to] remain close to family and nature made my choice to attend the U an easy one.” SBS was clearly lucky to get Chure as he continues advancing academically at some of the most prestigious research universities, which like the U, are members of the American Association of Universities, composed of the nation’s top research universities.

His advice to students is to explore science and to do it outside of their comfort level. “It is also important,” he says, “to be sure to be involved in science outside the classroom.” It wasn’t until his graduate studies, he explains, that he was “exposed to the beauty that is probability theory, linear algebra, dynamical systems, and other subfields.” That coupled with extensive training in computer programming “foundationally changed the way I pursue research in biology. The future of biology will be written in the language of mathematics, and quantitative methods should become a central feature of biology education at the U.”

Looking at the larger picture of society and science, Chure is worried that we “live in a time where objective truth and reality seems to be losing its importance with the general populace, even to the point where wearing face coverings has become viewed as a political statement.” Work hard, he says, to convey the science you’re doing to the general public. Even beyond the pandemic, he believes, the only way to fight the erosion of trust in science is to help improve the communication.

Outside of research the recently-minted PhD from Utah has a passion for graphic design and art which dovetails nicely with the work of his wife Bárbara de Araujo Soares who writes Hollywood screenplays. They feel fortunate to have gainful employment during the pandemic. “Going forward, the biggest impact this virus will (hopefully) have on our world,” Chure says, “will be a paradigm shift on how we view and support social causes such as health care, homeless and veteran services, and equitable income support.”

 

 

 
by David Pace
 

Jeffrey Webster, BS’81

 

Jeffrey Webster (BS'81)

A native of Chagrin Falls, OH, Jeff Webster, MD, FAAOS, found himself as an undergraduate at the University of Utah for "not the most mature reason, but it's true": the easy access to the world class skiing. He might be surprised at how common the denominator is for arriving freshmen who are held in rapture by the opportunities for outdoor recreation in the nearby Wasatch Mountains.

Whether skiing was an adjunct to the degree he sought in biology as a pre-med student ... or the reverse, will remain obscured for now. What he did find in Salt Lake City in the late 70s was that the U was his crucible for a successful life. "The U made me realize that school and life aren't easy, that you have to do solid, honest work to forge your path."

That path culminated in his career as an orthopedic surgeon, currently at the Reno Orthopedic Clinic. After graduating from the U, he attended Wayne State University for his MD followed by a residency at Indiana University. A sports medicine fellowship at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis then propelled him back to the west near another ski town, this time at the foot of the Sierra Nevada.

While in Utah the slopes had to compete with another passion of Webster's: his two years on the swim team between 1979 and the year he graduated in 1981. "Under coach Don Reddish I made lifelong friends, learned many life lessons, and met my wife Bridget Duncan Webster of over 36 years now." In the off-season he found himself at the bench doing research. I "did a student project," he explains, "self designed, regarding anabolic steroids in rats. Doc [James] Lords supervised. [It] was never published or presented, but was fun to do. The rats surely would have disagreed with the 'fun to do' part." Typical of the School of Biological Sciences' reputation for the informality with which world-class faculty and students collaboratively interact, Webster remembers sitting more than once in Lords' office where they would "shoot the breeze, talk biology, sports, whatever."

As for today, the clinic where Webster works has been, for over sixty years, a magnet for some of the best and brightest in orthopedic medicine. As one of 30 physicians, the Northern Nevada clinic boasts "the kind of comprehensive, world-class care typically only seen in major metropolitan areas." And, along with all medical practitioners right now, Webster, a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, acknowledges the current challenges in the field because of the Covid-19 pandemic. "The impact has been tremendous, and not all in a good way," he says. "The daily inconveniences are certainly a nuisance, but tolerable. It’s the political malfeasance that’s concerning to me." Even so, he muses, the "virus situation has brought family and friends closer, allowing us to appreciate the most important things in life."

His advice to undergraduates currently navigating their education while wearing masks, social distancing and living with the uncertainty of what's next during this singular time is philosophical:  "Be humble, choose your goals, and work diligently in accomplishing them. The basic tenets of western civilization, Christianity for example, are extremely important and powerful. Lead a virtuous life. ...While not very religious per se, I’ve become more spiritual with time."

Dr. Webster quips that he still loves to ski, though he isn't ready to say if Tahoe is as good as "the greatest snow on earth" of Alta and Snowbird. Fortunately, for both this Ohio native and the School of Biological Sciences, they still share the same Great Basin, across the west desert and the salt flats, connected still by the legacy of the University of Utah.

 

 
by David Pace
 

Kurt Zilm, BS’76, PhD’81

As Yale’s current Chair of the Chemistry Department, it seems clear that Kurt has always understood what the foundation of a successful chemistry department is built on: human connection, collaborative research, and investment in students. As a graduate student at the University of Utah, Kurt took advantage of Professor Ted Eyring’s time, knowledge, and generosity as much as Ted would endure his endless questions and curiosity. He’s spent the past 16 years as the Director of Undergraduate Studies at Yale University, and has committed to create an environment for students that allows them to indulge their curiosity--just as he was able to do with Professor Eyring.

After being at Yale for 38 years, Kurt has recently been part of a renaissance in their college of science as they renovate and build facilities that give all students the opportunities and experiences they need in order to establish themselves as serious chemists and innovators. The department’s investments have made it possible for every undergraduate in organic chemistry to have their own hood with an updated condenser system that delivers chilled water back through a seperate gravity-fed drain system--saving 150,000 gallons of water per year. Kurt has moved his lab three times in the past few years with all the renovating, but of course, is already seeing the extensive benefits to student research.

Since 1995, Yale has made a big push to provide more opportunities for women, minority, economically underprivileged, and other historically underrepresented students in STEM through their STARS Program. Zilm has seen the impact of this program on the science community, and the stats reveal that students who participate in this program continue on in the sciences with a significant impact.

Kurt’s own research is on the cusp of exciting results that he will be publishing in the near future. For one project, he’s been collaborating with a team at Dartmouth trying to figure out what it is that makes infectious prions infectious and how to differentiate them from non-infectious prions. He’s also been working with a team at Yale’s Medical School to understand the molecular mechanism of Alzheimer’s Disease--which he thinks they now understand, and have drugs that seem to work with mice.

These research projects have been 90% of Kurt’s work over the past five years, and it’s all finally starting to bear some fruit. He is quick to talk about the importance of collaboration:

“These projects are really starting to bear fruit only because we’re collaborating with these two teams, and we have the right people and the right facilities to work on this. None of us could have done it on our own.”

For Zilm, it’s all connected: from the similar molecular origins of his two projects, to the investment in students and facilities, to his beginnings at the University of Utah, and the collaborations he’s been part of in the past, present, and future.

 
by Anne Vivienne
 

Ole Jensen, BS’72

On the surface, Ole Jensen’s start as an undergraduate biology major, angling for medical school, didn’t appear particularly auspicious. His one claim to fame was that as an undergraduate the Salt Lake native was tapped to be a “calf sitter,” which meant that he would sit all night with young bovine used in experiments and monitor their heart rates. The calves were a critical part of the University’s artificial organ program which would eventually produce the world’s first artificial heart in the 1980s.

Not bad for a Utah boy who, when he wasn’t fishing with his Norwegian-born father on the Provo River and elsewhere, spent much of his early life collecting what would become one of the largest insect collections in the state.

It was a heady time to be studying biology at the U. Department Chair Gordon Lark was bringing in guest lecturers and expanding the faculty at a prodigious rate, including micro-biologist Mario Capecchi who would eventually be awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in genetics. Jensen recalls his time in the early seventies as an undergraduate at the U. One day, he says, anatomy professor Stephen Durrant “threw out twenty animal bones spread over a long table and asked the students to identify […them] as part of the midterm exam.” It turned out that the students, who in class had been studying strictly land mammals, got very few correct answers. “One bone that very much perplexed me that I remember to this day,” Jensen continues, “was half of a frontal bone with an ovoid depression. It was from a dolphin: the depression access for the spout!” Needless to say, it was “a particular shock” to find a marine mammal bone in the pile, but it was an experience that Jensen still recalls with some exhilaration.

After graduating from dental school at Northwest University, Jensen continued to Michigan to study oral surgery and, as a post doc, anesthesia, which would eventually lead to a Master’s degree in anesthesiology before returning to the west where he set up practice in Denver. There he plied his trade, as both a science and an art, for the next 38 years. But research has continued to braid its way through his entire professional life—a continuous thread that has kept him at the forefront of the fast-moving field of oral and maxillofacial surgery in which technology, the life sciences and medicine converge. As with many oral surgeons, Jensen performed four-on-one implant operations, which combine bridgework with a maximum of four implants per each of the crescent arrangements or arches.

Eventually, he modified the procedure so that it was less invasive and more intuitive, underscored by his determination to see the implant not as an analogue to a tooth (or teeth) but as a function of bio-mechanical forces, mathematically determined. Eventually he would join forces with business partners to found Clear Choice Dental Implants. “Basically, for five years I wanted to die,” Jensen says of the start-up which now has forty clinics across the nation. The company nearly failed three times, including during the recession of 2008. “I wanted to practice . . . business with integrity, and to be doing things in the best interests of the patients. It’s hard to do that with this kind of work where it’s not too costly and not too difficult for doctors to perform.” In a recent DentalTown podcast, Jensen explains, “If you have a business that is related to dental implants, you’re not going to do stuff that will put the business at risk."

"So this has a business, scientific, and a clinical basis of validity," he says ". . . [and] we stand by the way we treat our edentulous patients… .” Of course success is never final. With his rigorous research background and his bias for asking lots of questions, this time about biofilm, the pervasive glue-like matrix that grows virtually everywhere and can lead to complications in bio-medical work, Jensen took on yet another professional challenge. In September he was hired as Chief Medical Officer for Israel-based NOBIO, helping to create products through Nano-technology in which particles with superior micro-biotic activities are baked into the product to prevent bacteria from growing on surgically implanted devices.

Jensen’s research questions, especially as they’ve related to medicine, have been open ones. “Almost everything I’ve done is in surgery,” he says. “Now I’m doing a project with computers,” referring to his latest adventure. Inspired by the training of pilots who learn to fly by logging many hours in flight simulators, Jensen and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston are developing a program for surgical simulations.

McKay Hyde, BS’97

McKay Hyde (Honors B.A. Mathematics, B.A. Physics ’97) always enjoyed math and science, but it was taking a series of physics classes at the U, between his junior and senior year in high school, that changed his life. “I always enjoyed mathematics,” he said. “But physics showed me how mathematics could be used to solve real-world problems. That was tremendously exciting to me and still is.”

The Hyde Family

Today Hyde is managing director in Equities Engineering for the New York office of Goldman Sachs and is responsible for building systems to manage securities inventory and collateral, working closely with teams across Engineering, as well as the Finance, Operations and Securities divisions. “I like being part of a cross-functional team, building relationships and working together to find solutions that impact the organization and the clients we serve,” he said. “The combination of using mathematics and computer science applied to practical problems is very rewarding.”

He joined Goldman Sachs in 2006 and was named managing director in 2010. At Goldman Sachs, Hyde has had a range of responsibilities. He was head of the global Market Risk Technology team within Finance and Risk Engineering. Before that, Hyde led the Trading Strats team for Interest Rate Products in New York as well as the Core Quant Strats team, which developed models, algorithmic trading methods, and pricing infrastructure used by a number of trading desks. (“Strat” is a term that originated with Goldman Sachs to describe individuals that use tools from mathematics and computer science to build financial models In his Core Quant Strat role, Hyde led the build out of the Strat teams in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India, known as “The Silicon Valley of India.”

McKay Hyde, BS'97

Roots in Utah and at the U

Hyde grew up in Salt Lake City and North Salt Lake, graduating from Woods Cross High School. He met his wife, Marie, in an “outstanding” honors class taught by Professor Emeritus Jack Newell (“Education and Identity”), who served as dean and principal architect of the U’s Liberal Education Program. In his first two years at the U Hyde was also active in the U’s music program, playing the trumpet in several university bands—Concert, Marching, Pep, and Jazz.

Hyde gives credit to the education he received at the U with helping prepare him for a career in the financial sector. “I received a tremendous education in physics and mathematics, including research experience working in the Cosmic Ray group and in probability theory. The U provides great value as an institution—a quality education at a reasonable cost,” he said.

He also has great memories of three professors who made a difference for him during his undergraduate years: Davar Khoshnevisan (professor and current chair of the Math Department), Hyde’s undergraduate research advisor in mathematics; Martha Bradley, former dean of the Honors College, and the late Professor Gale Dick, whose “physics lectures were a work of art,” said Hyde.

Using Agile Principles in Undergraduate Research

Hyde believes students should be encouraged to participate in research opportunities early in their undergraduate years, and he applauds the decision of the College of Science to focus on a new program called the Undergraduate Research Initiative. “Research is very different from coursework—it’s really a separate skill,” said Hyde. “Engaging and encouraging undergrads to work together in research opportunities provides a far richer educational experience that really pays off in preparing students for demanding careers.”

To that end, Hyde thinks the same concepts and principles that teams use in Agile software development can effectively be applied to something like the Undergraduate Research Initiative program. “Creating an Agile environment—whether in software development or research—is essentially the same,” said Hyde.

“It involves developing and supporting a culture that encourages a team of people to work toward a common goal. To that end, a large project or research problem can be broken down into smaller tasks. A scrum master or team leader evaluates the special skills and talents of each individual on the team, assigns them to specific tasks, and the team comes together frequently—typically during a daily stand up —over focused sprints—typically 2-3 weeks long—to complete those tasks yielding demonstrable progress at the end of each sprint. By repeating this process, the team improves while building confidence and trust through repeated accomplishment of its goals.”

Previous Academic Career

After earning degrees at the U in 1997 Hyde completed a Ph.D. in Applied and Computational Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 2003. Hyde worked as a postdoc in the School of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota and later joined Rice University as an assistant professor of computational and applied mathematics.

When Hyde first left academia to work at Goldman Sachs, he wondered if he would need to dress and act like a “stereotypical banker.” But he discovered it was a much easier transition. “I found smart people from technical fields applying their skills in the area of finance,” he said. “It made me realize the importance of being open to new opportunities—taking the skills and talents you have and using them in different fields or industries to build relationships with others and do meaningful work. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Hyde and his wife, Marie, enjoy living in New Jersey and are the parents of four children: a son studying music at Berklee College of Music; a daughter at Brigham Young University (currently serving a church mission in Peru); and a son and daughter in high school.

 - First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019

Jim Sugihara, PhD’47

“I have lived by the principle that one ought to give back more than they receive.” - Jim Sugihara

 

James M. Sugihara, first Ph.D. recipient at the University of Utah and long-time faculty member in Chemistry, passed away on Nov. 12, 2019. He was 101.

Jim Sugihara, 1947

Sugihara holds an important place in the University’s history, as well as Utah’s history.

In 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Sugihara was just 24, he and his family were relocated from California to the Topaz Mountain internment camp in central Utah. The family lost their home and business.

However, Sugihara was granted a leave from Topaz Mountain to pursue an education, since he had already earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at UC-Berkeley in 1939. He enrolled at the U in 1944 and studied chemistry with professor Henry Eyring.

In 1946, Sugihara’s 84-page Ph.D. dissertation on “The Reactions of Mercaptans on Sucrose and Molasses,” included only three approval signatures: Walter D. Bonner, Lloyd E. Malm and Elton L. Quinn. (Henry Eyring had not yet started work as dean of the Graduate School by that date.)

May and Jim Sugihara, 1964

Sugihara received his doctorate degree in Chemistry in 1947. The University catalog in 1948-1949 then listed the following chemistry faculty: professors Elton Quinn, Lloyd Malm, and Henry Eyring; associate professors Vic Beard, Randall Hamm, Bill Burke, Jim Horton; and assistant professors Stuart Haynes, George Hill, Austin Wahraftig, Ransom Parlin, Bruno Zwolinski, and James Sugihara.

 

“Scientific progress has moved in ways that one could not expect. Research in genetics has become paramount, leading to improvements in medicine and human health that one could not imagine just 10 or 20 years ago.”

- Jim Sugihara at 100 years of age

 

In 1964, Sugihara moved to North Dakota State University and became dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. He was named Dean of the Graduate School and Director of Research in 1974. In 1998, he retired as Professor Emeritus.

In 2010, the James M. Sugihara Scholarship – a permanent named scholarship – was established in the Chemistry Department at the U. It provides financial support for an undergraduate who is studying chemistry and who is living on campus in the Crocker Science House located on Officers Circle in Fort Douglas.

 

Sugihara with scholarship winners Shwan Javdan and Elizabeth Fine