Science & Technology

USU Biochemist Ryan Jackson Named R. Gaurth Hansen Professor

CRISPR researcher, teacher and mentor is the second USU faculty member to assume the professorship, which honors the memory of a Utah State great.

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

USU biochemist Ryan Jackson has been named the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry's R. Gaurth Hansen Professor. Jackson and his students study CRISPR technology, with a focus on lesser-known CRISPR systems. (Photo: USU/Levi Sim)

Utah State University faculty member Ryan Jackson has been selected as the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s R. Gaurth Hansen Professor.

Department Head Lance Seefeldt announced the appointment Dec. 1.

“We are thrilled that our colleague, Dr. Ryan Jackson, will be the R. Gaurth Hansen Associate Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department,” Seefeldt says. “Ryan’s work with gene editing systems is expanding into new directions that will be advanced by this professorship. We are pleased to continue to honor the legacy of Dr. R. Gaurth Hansen with this professorship.”

USU Science Dean Michelle Baker calls Jackson “an exceptional scientist.”

“Dr. Jackson will be a great ambassador for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and for Utah State University,” Baker says.

Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2005, and a doctorate in biochemistry in 2012, both from Utah State. He joined USU’s faculty as an assistant professor in 2016, following a postdoctoral fellowship at Montana State University.

“I am very humbled, honored and excited to be selected for this professorship,” Jackson says. “This opportunity will benefit my students and I, by advancing our research efforts.”

The Cache Valley, Utah native studies CRISPR technology with a particular focus on lesser-known CRISPR systems.

“CRISPR systems are biological systems involved in bacterial immunity,” Jackson says. “Our lab is using biophysical, structural and biochemical techniques to study the structure and function of newly discovered type-IV and V systems.”

Jackson, along with his students and collaborators, recently published two seminal papers in the journal Nature, which describe novel findings about CRISPR type V nuclease Cas12a2.

“We’re just scratching the surface with these discoveries, but we believe Cas12a2 could lead to improved CRISPR technologies that will greatly benefit society, including advancing efforts to stem the effects of a number of genetic diseases,” he says.

USU alumna Hannah Domgaard, BS’22, MS’17, who worked in Jackson’s lab, describes the professor as a “phenomenal mentor.”

“He encourages his students, patiently teaches and guides them, and elevates our efforts to the next level,” she says. “It was an amazing opportunity and privilege to work in his lab.”

USU’s College of Science first announced the R. Gaurth Hansen Professorship in June 2020. Established as an endowment by the Hansen Family, the professorship honors the memory of renowned biochemist R. Gaurth Hansen (1920-2002). Hansen, who joined Utah State in 1968, served as a senior administrator, professor and researcher, and his efforts contributed to a 20-fold increase in the university's research budget. In addition to his administrative and teaching 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.

Hansen’s son and USU alumnus Lars Peter Hansen ’74, HD’12, offered congratulations to Jackson.

“On behalf of the Hansen family, I congratulate Dr. Jackson on this appointment and applaud his efforts as a researcher, teacher and mentor,” says the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and Nobel Economics Laureate. “My family and I look forward to Dr. Jackson’s and his students’ continued progress in innovative research.

Jackson is the second R. Gaurth Hansen Professor. He succeeds the late Alexander Boldyrev (1951-2023), who was named to the inaugural post in June 2020.

WRITER

Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science
435-797-3517
maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu

CONTACT

Lance Seefeldt
Professor and Head
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
435-797-1619
lance.seefeldt@usu.edu


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