Gift of $2 Million Creates The McCormick Endowed Chair in Biophysics

June 25, 2013


TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound announced today that it has received a $2 million gift from William and Flora McCormick of Austin, Texas, to establish The William D. and Flora McCormick Endowed Chair in Biophysics.

The gift was made as part of the university’s $125 million One [of a Kind] comprehensive campaign that is supporting critical programs and facilities, expanding scholarship opportunities for students and faculty, and reinforcing community initiatives.

“We are grateful to Bill and Flora for this generous gift, which supports the breadth of our undergraduate science education and enhances our commitment to interdisciplinary work in the new science center,” said President Ronald R. Thomas. “The tenure-line faculty position in biophysics will provide an important nexus among scientific fields at Puget Sound.”

The study of biophysics fosters connections across the fields of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics. This interdisciplinary approach enhances the prospects for breakthrough scientific discoveries and encourages the collaborative thinking that is sought after by science laboratories and industries.

Students of biophysics pursue learning in areas such as structural biology, spectroscopy and molecular microscopy, computational biology and bioinformatics, and neurobiological signal integration. Currently Puget Sound faculty and students explore the principles and discoveries of biophysics through a range of courses. These include instruction about the structure of DNA, development of X-ray crystallography, enzyme kinetics, bioelectricity in nerve signaling, and the conduction of electrons during photosynthesis in plants, algae, and bacteria.

“We are truly delighted to establish this new chair in biophysics at Puget Sound,” McCormick said. “Students entering the sciences are facing a rapidly changing environment that demands not only the precise skills and know-how of a discipline, but the ability to work with scientists from related fields. The addition of a faculty position in biophysics will strengthen even further the university’s vibrant offerings in the sciences.”

William D. McCormick is professor emeritus of physics at The University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in nonlinear dynamics, waves and complex dynamics in chemical reaction-diffusion systems, and experimental condensed matter physics. McCormick earned his doctorate degree from Duke University in North Carolina in 1959. Born in Tacoma, he is the third-generation family member to serve as a University of Puget Sound trustee. He has served on the board for multiple terms, most recently from 2002 to 2011. William and Flora McCormick are the parents of Puget Sound graduate Brian L. McCormick ’97.

The Science Center at University of Puget Sound, completed in fall 2008, includes Thompson Hall and the state-of-the-art laboratories and seminar rooms of Harned Hall. The high-tech facility encourages the close interaction of faculty and students, and includes laboratory spaces for the study of biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, and physics. The building accommodates an increase in Puget Sound science majors and growing interest in science from other undergraduates who enjoy the independent research and fieldwork opportunities made available to all students.

Puget Sound graduates go on to the country’s strongest graduate programs, take jobs and leadership roles in an array of industries and civic enterprises, and are accepted into medical school at a rate significantly higher than the national average.  

Photos on page: Top right: Students work in a laboratory in Harned Hall in the Science Building. Above left: The whale skeleton, Penrose tiles floor, and stairwell in Harned Hall.

For more about One [of a Kind] The Campaign for University of Puget Sound visit: http://www.pugetsound.edu/one-of-a-kind/

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