The University Record, October 1, 2001

Dennis J. Thiele—Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award

Thiele (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)
Dennis J. Thiele, a biological chemist and outstanding yeast geneticist, is widely recognized for his pioneering work on copper homeostasis and stress-regulated gene expression. He also is an outstanding teacher whose innovative programs enhance science education at all levels.

Professor Thiele and his laboratory group isolated genes from yeast that function as high affinity copper transporters and deciphered how yeast cells use copper sensing transcription factors to activate or repress expression of the copper uptake machinery. He also has isolated genes encoding mammalian copper transporters and demonstrated that high affinity copper transporters are essential for embryonic development. Many studies on metals other than copper are based on Professor Thiele’s findings. His critical contributions to the study of metals in biology, particularly copper, have been recognized with a Burroughs Wellcome Toxicology Scholar Award. He has spoken at the International Copper Conference and was co-organizer of two consecutive international meetings on the biochemistry and genetics of copper homeostasis.

Since joining the faculty in 1987, Professor Thiele has taught several of the Department of Biological Chemistry’s key graduate courses, including those on gene expression and on protein structure and function. His teaching is innovative and uncompromising. Many of his former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are now teaching at prestigious institutions around the world. He also is improving secondary science education by teaching genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry to high school science students and teachers, including one who was subsequently named Michigan High School Teacher of the Year.

Professor Thiele chairs the Life Sciences Lecture Series, which brings high profile scientists to the U-M in a venue that attracts scientists and students from all parts of the University. He also serves on the Biomedical Research Council and is co-chair of the Joint Life Sciences Search Committee, which is identifying outstanding faculty candidates for joint appointment in the Medical School and the LS&A. His honors include the University’s Faculty Recognition Award in 1997.

For his significant discoveries in biological chemistry, particularly regarding the role of metals in biology, as well as his exuberant and attentive teaching, and his contributions to science education and to the University, the University of Michigan is pleased to present to Dennis J. Thiele its Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.