Doris Wagner Named Robert I. Williams Term Professor

Doris Wagner, Professor of Biology, has been named Robert I. Williams Term Professor of Biology. A leader in the fields of plant biology, chromatin modification, and epigenetics, Wagner’s research focuses on understanding at the molecular level the complex changes that occur when an organism switches developmental programs. Specifically, she and her team investigate the vital transition from vegetative to reproductive development in the plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana. Her work has revealed how environmental and developmental cues are integrated to modulate the activity of select master regulator proteins and how this subsequently directs chromatin reprogramming to enable establishment of new cell identities.

Wagner is the recipient of numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, including serving as the lead Principal Investigator on the National Science Foundation Research Collaborative Network Initiative "EPIC: Epigenomics of Plants, International Consortium." She is committed to science education, undergraduate research, and innovation in teaching, participating annually in the Biomedical Research Academy for high school students and leading several workshops at Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning. In addition to her service as Graduate Chair of Biology, she has served on the Penn Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee, the Penn Women’s Biomedical Society, the Penn Epigenetics Program Executive Board, the Penn Genome Frontiers Institute Executive Board, the University Genomic Initiative Committee, and the University Graduate Council.

The Robert I. Williams Endowed Term Chair was established in 2006 by Paul C. Williams, W’67, PAR’03, in memory of his father. Williams recently retired from Nuveen Investments, LLC, where he was managing director of new product development for Nuveen's complex of closed-end, exchange-traded funds. He previously directed Nuveen's municipal bond research and investment banking departments and served on the firm's Management Committee.

At Penn, Williams has been an engaged and effective volunteer leader and has served in a variety of roles. He is an emeritus trustee of the University, an emeritus member of the Board of Overseers at Penn Arts and Sciences, and a former president of Penn Alumni. In 2011, he earned the University’s Alumni Award of Merit. He also served on the former Biology Department Advisory Board. In addition to his volunteer engagement, Williams has been a generous supporter of faculty, students, capital projects, and programs across the University.

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