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From the Fall 2019 Edition of Discovery

Fostering Synergistic Research

Annual Hansen Life Sciences Retreat honors celebrated scientist and USU professor/administrator R. Gaurth Hansen (1920-2002)

Participants in the 2019 Hansen Life Sciences Retreat

Participants in the 2019 Hansen Life Sciences Retreat, held Sept. 21, at Logan’s Riverwoods Conference Center, gather for a group photo. The annual conference, which marked its ninth year, brings together student and faculty researchers from varied disciplines, who are involved in molecular life sciences research.

Photo courtesy Mary-Ann Muffoletto

“When you talk only with researchers in your field, it can become a bit of an echo chamber,” says Utah State University neurocientist Max McDermott.

The first-time presenter at USU’s interdisciplinary Hansen Life Sciences Retreat says questions he received at the end of his talk “really forced me to think about my research in ways I hadn’t before.” “That’s huge,” says McDermott, a doctoral student in USU’s Department of Psychology. “Even though I’m on a campus with scientists and engineers from all different disciplines exploring similar topics, we haven’t had a chance to discuss and acknowledge our common research goals.”

McDermott was among about 70 scholars who gathered Sept. 21, at Logan’s Riverwoods Conference Center, for the retreat’s ninth annual gathering. The conference draws graduate students and faculty from disciplines throughout campus, who are working toward understanding biological processes at the molecular level.

Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow Mathangi Soundararajan

At USU’s 2019 Hansen Life Sciences Retreat, Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow Mathangi Soundararajan, center, discusses her research poster with fellow retreat participants.

Photo courtesy Mary-Ann Muffoletto

The fall gathering featured both oral and poster presentations, with topics ranging from nitrogen fixation and regenerative medicine to CRISPR, the genetics of autism, opioid modulation, bacterial resistance and more.

“The positive synergy generated at these gatherings is exciting,” says Lance Seefeldt, professor and head of USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which coordinates the retreat. “One of our goals is to get our graduate students and faculty sharing ideas and thinking about the benefits of collaborating with peers from diverse disciplines.”

The retreat honors the memory of renowned biochemist R. Gaurth Hansen, (1920-2002), a gifted scientist, teacher and administrator, who spent much of his career enriching Utah State University. A Cache Valley, Utah native, Hansen began his undergraduate studies at Utah State, before transferring to the University of Wisconsin, where he completed bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Hansen joined USU’s faculty as an academic vice president in 1968, and was soon promoted to provost. His efforts contributed to a twenty-fold increase in the university’s research budget. In addition to his administrative endeavors, Hansen published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in professional journals and he received many prestigious national accolades. He was named USU Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 1985 and retired from Utah State in 1994.

The Hansen Life Sciences Retreat is financially supported by Hansen’s son and daughter-in-law, Dr. Lars Peter Hansen (BS’74, mathematics and economics) and Dr. Grace Tsiang.

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto

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