Professor envisions an edge for MU

The visionary is one of four candidates for director of MU’s new Life Sciences Center.
Sunday, September 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:36 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hans Bohnert has a vision for MU’s new Life Sciences Center that includes ways to stay on the cutting edge and to involve the community.

Bohnert, professor of plant biology and crop sciences at the University of Illinois, is one of four finalists vying to become the first director of the $60 million Life Sciences Center, scheduled to open sometime next year.

As part of the two-day interview process, Bohnert presented a scientific seminar, “Plant Transcriptomes — Answers for Every Stress,” and on Friday spoke to about 35 people at a forum at the MU Health Sciences Center.

His vision involves ideas on how to write grant proposals in order to keep facilities and equipment up-to-date. He said he thinks areas of research at the center should include human health and nutrition, global change, infectious diseases, genomes and genotypes, cellular homeostasis and outreach.

Within his outreach theme, Bohnert said, “We could get high school students and high school teachers to come to the center for training sessions, then invite them into individual laboratories.”

To make the Life Sciences Center more accessible to the public, Bohnert wants one professor each week to speak about his or her research on public radio. “They will have to speak so that other people can understand — that itself will improve teaching,” he said.

The center, under construction at College Avenue and Rollins Street, will house 44 research laboratories and a 250-seat auditorium.

The new director will be responsible for contributing new ideas to life sciences research as well as overseeing research teams, according to a job description provided by the MU News Bureau.

Bohnert said it is important that the director be actively involved in running the center, not just representing it to those on the outside. “The director needs to not be someone who just picks up PowerPoint slides and talks about it,” he said.

The Illinois professor, who earned his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg (Germany) in biology and biochemistry, said he would also like to continue doing what he loves. “I want to spend 10 to 20 percent of my time still doing science,” he said.

The second finalist, David Hart, professor of microbiology, infectious diseases and medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, will present his scientific seminar Monday.

The open forum will be from 4 to

5 p.m. Tuesday at the MU Health Sciences Center.

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