MSU’s Tuo Wang invested as inaugural Carl H. Brubaker, Jr. Endowed Professor
In a celebration held Sept. 28 at the Wharton Center, Michigan State University chemist Tuo Wang, an associate professor in MSU’s College of Natural Science (NatSci), was honored as the inaugural Carl H. Brubaker, Jr. Endowed Professor.
Wang’s ceremony was attended by family, friends, colleagues, and university leaders including Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.; Doug Gage, vice president, Office of Research and Innovation at MSU; and NatSci Dean Phil Duxbury. James Hoeschele, MSU chemistry alumnus and donor responsible for establishing the professorship, was also in attendance.
Wang is a preeminent researcher in the application of sensitivity-enhanced solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to biomaterials. His work seeks to reveal the intricate structure of fungal pathogens, plant biomass, and algae through the atomic-resolution analysis of intact and often living cells—innovative approaches that support the development of bio-renewable energy and anti-fungal agents. Wang received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also served as a postdoctoral associate. Prior to joining MSU, he was an associate professor at Louisiana State University.
The endowed professorship was created by Hoeschele as a means to honor his MSU chemistry Ph.D. mentor, Professor Carl Brubaker Jr. It was Brubaker who, in 1969, alerted Hoeschele to a Cancer Research Fellow position in Professor Barnett Rosenberg’s laboratory in the MSU Department of Biophysics. Here, Hoeschele would participate in the development of the breakthrough chemotherapy drug cisplatin, and go on to co-discover its analog, carboplatin—therapeutics that have saved millions of lives to date.
“Royalties from and carboplatin have made it possible to recognize Dr. Brubaker with this honor, and I am pleased that he is being honored in this way,” Hoeschele said. “I am also very happy that Professor Tuo Wong is the recipient of the inaugural endowed Carl H. Brubaker, Jr. Professorship.”
“I’d like to thank Dr. Jim Hoeschele for his generosity,” said Tim Warren, Barnett Rosenberg Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. “Not only did Jim’s gift bring Tuo and his outstanding scholarship and mentorship to our university, but it enabled us to hire Weiwei Xie, his spouse, whose career is similarly on a meteoric rise.”
“These professorships are awarded to only the most outstanding faculty in the university and are meant to recognize exceptional leadership and research productivity,” added Phil Duxbury, NatSci dean. “The bestowing of this professorship to Dr. Wang will help guarantee Michigan State’s continued capacity to enhance its national and international reputation in the development and application of solid-state NMR technology to biomaterials and ensure that students receive rigorous and rich classroom experiences around topics in this important and growing field."
Wang’s cutting-edge work in the application of NMR has already resulted in a growing list of accolades, including an NSF Early CAREER Award, a DOE Early Career Award, a Varian Young Investigator Award in Magnetic Resonance, and the Anatole Abragam Prize.
Among his ongoing projects, Wang is investigating microbial carbohydrate armor to develop improved anti-fungal therapeutics, exploring how carbohydrate-lignin interactions play a role in biofuel production, and examining the nature of microalgae with crucial pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications. Given the pioneering nature of his work, he’s likewise creating a label-free NMR database of complex carbohydrate spectra—an invaluable resource for like-minded researchers across the globe.
“I am delighted to be here today to recognize and congratulate Dr. Tuo Wang on his installation as the inaugural Carl H. Brubaker, Jr. Endowed Professor,” said Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., MSU interim president. “Such endowments ultimately support continued excellence and a sustained commitment to making a real difference in the lives of Spartans and the society we serve.”
With the support of an endowed professorship, Wang finds himself energized to identify what new and challenging issues his laboratory might tackle next.
“This kind of great honor is something that’s pushed me to think deeply about my own research and how it might grow,” said Wang. “With this gift, I’m thinking of what opportunities might exist beyond my research group, and how these will benefit our university, community, and the region as a whole.”
In addition to expanding his research to encompass bacteria via a combination of NMR and cryogenic electron microscopy, Wang’s deeply interested in advancing MSU’s position as a leader in scientific instrumentation. Specifically, he notes the recent growth of ultra-high field NMR centers across the country—spectrometers operating at one gigahertz or higher and offering unmatched levels of analysis.
“While ultra-high field NMR facilities are readily available in Europe, they’re still quite rare in the United States,” Wang explained. “Through the NSF and other funding agencies, there’s a real interest in creating a national network of centers housed at universities. Competition is extremely fierce, but I’m thinking of how MSU might join this community. This would build upon our university’s already incredible research infrastructure.”
“I am confident that Dr. Wang will continue making significant contributions as a
researcher, an MSU faculty member, and a mentor to the next generation of leaders
through undergraduate research and courses,” Woodruff added.
Banner Image: (L to R): Phil Duxbury, NatSci dean; Jim Hoeschele, donor, Carl H. Brubaker Endowed Professorship; Tuo Wang, Carl H. Brubaker, Jr. Endowed Professor; Teresa K. Woodruff, MSU interim president; Tom O’Halloran, University Foundation Professor of Chemistry; and Tim Warren, Barnett Rosenberg Professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, pose for a group photo following Wang’s investiture ceremony to honor him as the inaugural Carl H. Brubaker, Jr. Endowed Professor. Credit: Harley J. Seeley