Athens, Ga. – J. Michael Pierce, Distinguished Research Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the University of Georgia’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been named the first George E. and Sarah F. Peters Mudter Professor in Cancer Research.
His appointment is pending approval by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. With the professorship, Pierce will receive a support account that is determined by a formula generated by the University of Georgia Foundation.
“I am honored and humbled to be the initial recipient of the Mudter Professorship in Cancer Research, and I am totally indebted to my students, associates and colleagues for the accomplishments of my laboratory that led to this recognition,” said Pierce. “My focus on cancer research began with the death of my father from a horribly metastatic cancer just as I was beginning my independent scientific career. I can only hope that some part of our research, and that of my students and collaborators, is ultimately able to have a positive impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Pierce is also on the faculty of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at UGA.
“This is a very prestigious professorship and the individual chosen for it must have an outstanding national and international reputation, with teaching and research of a significant impact,” said Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Science. “Michael Pierce is superb on all those counts and a marvelous choice as the first Mudter Professor.”
Funds for the professorship were provided by Sarah P. Mudter and her children, Patricia Mudter Hobbs and George E. Mudter. Each department in the biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences had the opportunity to nominate a faculty member for the award, and a committee of distinguished faculty members reviewed the nominations and forwarded a recommendation to Stokes.
“A national, blue-ribbon panel of medical scientists recently told us that UGA has important and unique programs to aid in the challenging fight against cancer,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research. “Professor Pierce has played a pivotal role in marshalling these resources and in winning major new awards to support cancer research on campus. It is gratifying to see his important efforts recognized with this singular award.”
A native of Oklahoma City, Pierce graduated in 1973 from Oklahoma Baptist University with a major in chemistry and biology. He earned his doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1980 in biology and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley.
Pierce began his career at the University of Miami School of Medicine, where he served from 1982-1991, beginning as an assistant professor and rising to associate professor and staff investigator for the Papanicolau Comprehensive Cancer Center. He came to UGA as a professor in 1998 and took over as director of the University of Georgia Cancer Center in 2004. In 2006, he was named a distinguished research professor.
He is the recipient of millions of dollars in grants from such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the American Heart Association. He has been a featured speaker at symposia all over the world and later this year will deliver invited talks in Denmark and Japan.
Pierce is also editor of the Handbook of Glycomics, which will be published by Academic Press later this year and a member of the editorial board of the journal Glycobiology. In addition, he holds 13 U.S. patents.
During his career at UGA he has lectured in numerous graduate and undergraduate courses as well and is co-organizer of the course “Biotechnology” with Professor Michael Adang.
As with others at UGA who have been awarded a special professorship, Pierce will relinquish the title of distinguished research professor when his new chair title is formally approved by the Regents.
He is married to Stephanie Pierce, a member of the voice faculty in UGA’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music since 1996. They have two sons, Daniel and Joshua.