Professor Laura Kiessling Receives 2016 Hilldale Award in the Physical Sciences

For nearly 30 years, remarkable faculty at the University of Wisconsin—Madison have been singled out by their peers for their distinguished contributions to teaching, research and service.

Since 1987, these scholars — one from each of the four faculty divisions (Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Studies) — have been honored with the prestigious Hilldale Award.

This year, the four recipients will be recognized at a meeting of the Faculty Senate on April 4 and will receive a cash prize of $7,500.

Professor Laura Kiessling received the Hilldale Award in the Physical Sciences. Other award recipients were Michael Apple (Social Sciences), Steve Stern (Arts and Humanities), and Paul Ahlquist (Biological Sciences).

Physical Sciences: Laura Kiessling

Laurens Anderson Professor of Biochemistry, H. Emil Fischer Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Steenbock Professor of Chemistry

In 2014, the director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences highlighted Laura Kiessling’s work before Congress as an example of the economic and scientific value of basic science. Kiessling’s research group, which studies the biological roles of the carbohydrates found on the outer coats of all cells, had leveraged the carbohydrates on human stem cells to support and grow them in the laboratory.

Kiessling’s lab has blazed a number of scientific trails over the last two decades, spanning the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, biology and medicine. According to her nomination letter, Kiessling’s carbohydrate work helped her achieve scientific stardom when she uncovered insights underlying the human inflammatory response, and more recently, identified a human gut protein that selectively recognizes microbes.

“Kiessling is one of the most distinguished faculty members on the UW–Madison campus,” writes Robert McMahon, Helfaer Professor of Chemistry and department chair, in that letter. Her “dedication to UW–Madison and her commitment to the highest standards in science and training are rare.”

A native of Lake Mills, Wis. and a co-founder of Quintessence Biosciences, Kiessling was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 1999 and inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. She helped secure a $1.7 million grant to establish the Keck Center for Chemical Genomics and the UW Carbone Cancer Center Screening Facility, has been heavily involved in recruiting other top faculty to the UW, and directs the National Institutes of Health Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program that supports 10-15 graduate students across campus each year.

—Kelly April Tyrrell, University Communications