Two long-time professors in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology are retiring on December 31, 2021.
Robert Denver, Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is an internationally recognized neuroendocrinologist, who has served on the UM faculty for 27 years. He was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2018.
Denver led the MCDB efforts in the design, construction, and move into the Biological Sciences Building that was completed in 2018, through his roles as Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, Associate Chair for Research and Facilities, and then Chair of MCDB from 2014 to 2019.
Denver graduated from Rutgers University in 1984, earning a Bachelor of Science degree with High Honors. He then attended the University of California, Berkeley where he completed his Doctorate in Zoology in 1989, and then embarked on postdoctoral research at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, the University of California, Berkeley, and the National Institutes of Health. He joined the faculty at the University of Michigan as assistant professor in 1994 and was promoted through the ranks to professor in 2006.
During his academic career Professor Denver designed and taught several courses for undergraduate and graduate students in introductory biology, animal physiology, endocrinology and experimental design. He played a central role in the establishment of the neuroscience major, and from 2011 to 2013 he served as chair of the Neuroscience Concentration Steering Committee. During this time he played a key role in the establishment of the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience (UPiN), which was formed in 2013.
Professor Denver’s scholarly work is internationally recognized for discoveries on the molecular mechanisms of hormone action during brain development, the neuroendocrinology of stress, and the pivotal roles of hormones in mediating the interaction between genes and the environment. His primary model systems have been amphibian metamorphosis and mouse development, and his research has spanned topics from molecular neuroscience to evolutionary ecology. He made key discoveries on neurohormones that control tadpole metamorphosis, how nuclear hormone receptors regulate gene transcription, and the roles and mechanisms of action of Krüppel-like factors in nervous system development and regeneration. During his career he published over 130 scientific articles.
In 2010 Professor Denver co-founded and served as first president of the North American Society for Comparative Endocrinology (NASCE), and from 2013 to 2017 he was president of the International Federation of Comparative Endocrine Societies (IFCES). He was a regular member of the Integrative and Clinical Endocrinology and Reproduction Study Section for the National Institutes of Health, a member of the Annual Meeting Steering Committee for the Endocrine Society, and he served on scientific advisory panels for the US Environmental Protection Agency, including the Endocrine Disrupter Screening Program, and grant review panels for the US National Science Foundation. He also served as associate editor for several scientific journals.
Eran Pichersky, a plant biologist with an expertise in how plants synthesize floral scents, is the Michael M. Martin Collegiate Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.
He earned his B.Sc. degree from the University of California Berkeley (1980) and his Ph.D. from the University of California Davis (1984). He conducted postdoctoral research at Rockefeller University and joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1986. He was promoted to associate professor in 1992, to professor in 1998, and received a collegiate professorship in 2005.
Professor Pichersky’s research programs have focused on the characterization of genes and proteins that catalyze reactions that are unique to plants. A project devoted to investigations of enzymes that are involved in carbon dioxide fixation, or that absorb light and transfer energy in photosynthesis, included a study of the evolution of these proteins. Biochemical and molecular biological characterization was next used to investigate the enzymes that produce floral scents.
Professor Pichersky’s research identified a number of enzymes responsible for synthesis of the volatile chemicals that produce floral scents, showed how their activities are regulated, and defined interrelationships among these proteins with respect to their evolution. His research has resulted in about 250 publications, 4 patents, 2 co-edited collections of research papers. His book, Plants and Human Conflict, which details the role plant chemicals have played in the history of warfare, was published in 2018. His former students and post-doctoral fellows who worked with him on these research projects now occupy positions in universities and research institutes in North America, Europe, Israel and Asia.
Professor Pichersky’s achievements have been recognized by fellowships from The Guggenheim, von Humboldt and Fulbright Foundations among others. He was elected a fellow of AAAS and of the American Society of Plant Biologists.
He has been active in undergraduate teaching (genetics, molecular biology, plant biochemistry). In addition to his service on numerous university and national committees, he served for two years as chair, leading the new department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology when it formed during the reorganization of the former Department of Biology.