The University Record, October 9, 1995

FACULTY AWARDS: James Penner-Hahn, Faculty Recognition Award

An internationally renowned scholar in bioinorganic and biophysical chemistry, Professor James Penner-Hahn has established himself as a leader in applications of X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) to biological systems. XAS has become a standard tool in bioinorganic chemistry for the examination of metals in biological systems. The significance of metals in the structure and function of biological macromolecules, both proteins and nucleic acids, was underestimated by both chemists and biologists for many years but has now achieved wide recognition.

Since joining the Department of Chemistry in 1985, Professor Penner-Hahn has established a highly respected research program in the area of bioinorganic and biophysical chemistry with a special emphasis on determination of metal site structure in several important classes of materials.

In pursuing his research, Professor Penner-Hahn has exhibited a rare combination of selecting important problems, carefully collecting and evaluating data on these systems, and applying a keen and broad intellect to his chosen topic. In addition to expanding our understanding of metal-containing biomolecules in several diverse systems, Professor Penner-Hahn has mastered the field of oxygenic photosynthesis and provided a structural characterization of the manganese sites in the oxygen evolving complex. One measure of the esteem held for his program is the list of respected scientists who have sought active collaborations with Professor Penner-Hahn.

In an era when strong research scientists frequently are accused of being insensitive to undergraduate education, Professor Penner-Hahn is an excellent example of an individual who debunks this stereotype. Professor Penner-Hahn served on the departmental curriculum committee during the inauguration of the department’s new curriculum. He has taught the largest, and most time consuming, laboratory course in the department for the past two years, presenting lectures that are extraordinarily polished and balanced. Professor Penner-Hahn also has taken on the responsibility of developing a new pedagogy for general chemistry laboratories. In addition to revamping the approach to laboratory instruction, he is attempting to modernize instruction through greater student interaction with computers. Professor Penner-Hahn also mentors chemistry students involved in undergraduate research.

Professor Penner-Hahn is a delegate in a consortium devoted to expanding the use of the “Michigan Model for Chemical Education” to other universities and colleges. He is a co-author of an American Chemical Society text that will provide examples drawn from biological systems of chemical principles taught in first-year chemistry.

Recognizing the importance and broad range of his research topics, the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of his work, and his contributions to the improvement of chemistry education at Michigan and nationally, the University proudly presents to Professor James Penner-Hahn its Faculty Recognition Award.