Administrator over research resigns

Raymond Gesteland will step down as the U’s vice president of research to devote his time and energy to his own research in human genetics.

Gesteland spent seven years working with U researchers to promote collaboration within colleges and organized the Brain Institute, which opened in 2005.

“When I accepted the position, I wanted to know what our next big venture would be,” Gesteland said. “It was an institute studying the brain.”

The Brain Institute is a research group devoted to understanding complex brain functions and circuitry, especially related to such diseases as Alzheimer’s and autism.

Gesteland directs an interdisciplinary research program where faculty members from multiple departments work on various problems. Their research of HIV recently won them a $19.2 million grant for studying and developing new techniques in stopping the virus.

Wesley Sundquist, the director of the HIV research program, said Gesteland was helpful with the grant proposal and allocated the donation of U research money for equipment supplies.

“The university is a remarkable place to do research,” Gesteland said. “It is an attractive and easy place to do collaborative research within the different colleges. The person down the hall is seen as a colleague, not a competitor.”

Despite what Gesteland has accomplished, he intended to stay for three years. Few people stay in administrative positions their entire career, said Ron Pugmire, associate vice president of research, who worked with Gesteland during the past seven years.

Gesteland will now return to his own lab. His research relates to the process of making proteins in the body and what causes genetic changes in that process. Further understanding of those processes could provide insight into the DNA code and replication of viruses, such as HIV.

Even after accepting the position, Gesteland has continued directing his research lab — stopping by three to four times a week to conduct work.

Pugmire said he will miss Gesteland’s focus on collaboration and his open personality.

“I know I’m sorry to see him go,” Pugmire said. “He has done an amazing job here.”

Norma Wills, the senior laboratory specialist in Gesteland’s lab, said it will be good to have Gesteland around more often.

“I’ve worked with him for many years on gene regulation,” she said. “He’s the kind of guy that allows students to try out their ideas, if it’s reasonable.”

Besides promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, Gesteland himself works with many researchers, Wills said.

His current research involves studying what regulates genes and what causes genes to act in different and unexpected ways.

“It’s very important in the development of proteins if things are expressed in the wrong place or not at all,” Wills said.

When natural proteins are expressed incorrectly, they can cause diseases, like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.

“My research may turn out to be important to a disease, but I mostly love working on it because it’s interesting that the genetic code can be altered naturally,” Gesteland said.

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