University of Utah announces 6 new professorships in health and clinical research funded by the Huntsman family

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The work of artist and architect Anna Campbell Bliss, who mixed art and science in her work, can be seen at the Cowles Mathematics Building on the University of Utah campus with her piece entitled, "Extended Vision."

The Huntsman family announced Tuesday that it will fund six additional professorships at the University of Utah in honor of late patriarch Jon M. Huntsman Sr.

The contribution is part of ongoing support for chairperson positions at the school that were announced in 2017 when the initial six positions were named. This latest installment comes now after the family said goodbye to Huntsman Sr. in February 2018.

“Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Huntsman family, we are thrilled to be able to honor these outstanding faculty members,” said U. President Ruth Watkins in a news release.

Huntsman Sr., who was a billionaire chemical industrialist — in addition to being one of the world’s most generous philanthropists — is often cited as Utah’s most influential businessman. His Huntsman Corp. is still running, as is his Huntsman Cancer Foundation, which helped start the Huntsman Cancer Institute, a research and treatment facility at the University of Utah.

Accordingly, the professorships at the U. focus on health and clinical research. The chairpersons will sit for a five-year term, ending in June 2024. Here are the six individuals selected:

• Brenda Bass

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is Brenda Bass.

Bass is a professor of biochemistry and human genetics. She studies cell growth, too, at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, including the pathways of RNA.

• Howard Colman

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is Howard Colman.

Colman is a professor of neurosurgery who has been nationally recognized for his research. He focuses on the treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors. And he has taken a special interest in developing new therapies to treat those.

• Mollie R. Cummins

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is Mollie R. Cummins.

Cummins teaches in the U.'s College of Nursing. Her research interest is on improving health care for patients.

• Ryan E. Looper

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is Ryan Looper.

Looper is professor of both organic and bioorganic chemistry who came to the U. in 2007 after studying at Harvard. He studies molecule behavior and how that impacts diseases, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

• Steffen Schmitz-Valckenberg

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is Steffen Schmitz-Valckenberg.

Schmitz-Valckenberg researches in ophthalmology and visual sciences at the U. He focuses on age-related macular degeneration and performs eye surgery.

• Jason Shepherd

(Photo Courtesy of the University of Utah) Pictured is Jason Shepherd.

Shepherd teaches neurobiology and anatomy and researches how the brain’s processes malfunction with neurological disorders.

Editor’s note: Paul Huntsman, a son of the late Jon Huntsman Sr., is the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.