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Baylor Recruits Aaron Wright, Ph.D., of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to Serve as Schofield Endowed Chair in Biomedical Studies | Media and public relations

Aaron Wright, Ph.D., inaugural James R. Schofield Professor of Biomedical Studies at Baylor University. (Matthieu Minard/Baylor University)

Wright brings to Baylor a highly funded interdisciplinary research laboratory at the interface of microbiome, health and environment

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By Derek Smith, Baylor University Marketing and Communications

WACO, Texas (September 15, 2022) – Baylor University today announced the appointment of Aaron Wright, Ph.D., as the inaugural James R. Schofield Endowed Chair in Biomedical Studies. Wright comes to Baylor from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, and will provide interdisciplinary research and leadership within the Biology department.

“When I first saw this position I was amazed at how well it matched my research background, but it was when I started interacting with the people at Baylor that I became got even more excited,” Wright said. “It is clear that professors are motivated to do great research and are not bound by disciplinary walls. The integration of faith and scholarship was another motivating factor, and it became clear that Baylor not only talks about it, but embodies it.

Before joining the faculty at Baylor this summer, Wright spent nearly 14 years as director of the biological sciences group and senior scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and served as a joint professor for eight years at the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering from Washington State University.

Wright, whose academic background bridges both chemistry and biology, brings an interdisciplinary approach to research that focuses on the relationship between the microbiome, environmental factors, and human health. As the Schofield Endowed Chair in Biomedical Studies, he will foster interdisciplinary research partnerships to address global challenges in biomedicine.

“I am delighted to welcome Aaron Wright back to Texas. His studies of drug metabolism and the gut biome will be a major contribution to shaping our joint health initiative. enlightensaid Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D. “Dr. Wright is used to working with large teams of scientists and I can’t wait to see what he does at Baylor.

Chemical approaches to answering biological questions

The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms found throughout the body in areas such as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and Wright’s research focuses on the processes that take place in the gut. Wright and his research team observe gut health outcomes by studying inputs to the gut – ranging from environmental factors to diet, as well as mechanisms and processes within the gut – to uncover clues about the causes that lead to health outcomes.

“What excites me is studying the interface of three things — the gut microbiome, humans, and things that happen in the environment around us,” Wright said. “How do these three things combine to affect human health? If you see a car go by, you see the outside of the car. But what drives it forward? That’s the question I ask myself with humans and the gut microbiome: what’s going on under the hood at a high level and in the fine detail that we need to understand? »

Wright’s work has been heavily funded by agencies including the Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and more. His research further led to the creation of Enzymetrics Bioscience, a Philadelphia-based company identifying areas of the microbiome that may be ripe for therapeutic treatment. Wright is currently a Scientific Advisor and Observer on the Society’s Board of Directors.

Advancing interdisciplinary projects

“Dr. Wright is a great example of the importance of endowments in helping attract influential faculty to Baylor University,” said Lee Nordt, Ph.D., Dean of Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. . “Dr. Wright’s research in the microbiome is of particular importance as we continue to develop health sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences and across Baylor University.

The James R. Schofield Professorship in Biomedical Studies was established through a gift from the estate of the late Dr. James Schofield, Baylor alumnus and former visiting professor. Dr. Schofield, who died in 2007, chose to create a lasting legacy at Baylor, leaving part of his estate to the University. The Schofield Chair in Biomedical Studies is one of two endowed chairs created through his gift, and it will support innovative research and scholarly pursuits and teaching within the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Chemistry and biochemistry.

The Schofield Chairholder is a Foster Academic Challenge Scholar, named after Foster Academic Challengecreated as part of a $100 million gift from Paul and Alejandra Foster of El Paso, Texas, to support the University’s efforts to generate high-impact research and scholarship through support from counterpart.

“When you look at the story of James Schofield, here at Baylor University and Baylor College of Medicine, he has laid a compelling foundation. I aspire to those same kinds of levels that he achieved serving students, faculty and the world,” Wright said. “I am grateful that his family has invested in this position, and I am honored to have the opportunity to do great things with this endowment.”

Working in a national laboratory, Wright comes from a background that is highly collaborative in nature and seeks to build on that in his role as President Schofield.

“An important part of holding an endowed chair is reaching out to all departments and looking for opportunities to bring together research across disciplines,” Wright said. “The Baylor Sciences Building (where Wright’s lab and office residency) embodies this, bringing together faculty from different fields, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked 1 research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by combining interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Established in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continuously operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a wide range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

The College of Arts & Sciences is the largest academic division of Baylor University, consisting of 25 academic departments in the sciences, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences, as well as 10 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught at the College cover subjects ranging from art and theater to religion, philosophy, sociology and natural sciences. Professors conduct research around the world, and research at the undergraduate and graduate level is widespread in all disciplines. Visit baylor.edu/artsandsciences.