Texas A&M University biologist Dr. Richard H. Gomer has been recognized by the Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, with one of its primary annual awards celebrating scientific excellence and advancement -- the 2017 Outstanding Distinguished Scientist Award.

Gomer, a member of the Texas A&M Department of Biology since 2008 and holder of a Thomas W. Powell '62 Chair in Science, was honored for his contributions to biomedical research and teaching as well as to general science at the annual Sigma Xi Induction and Awards Reception, held Wednesday (May 23) at the University Club on the Texas A&M campus. He was presented with a commemorative plaque and a $750 cash prize and also invited to present the Distinguished Scientist Lecture on the Texas A&M campus later this fall.

Gomer joins a lengthy list of notable past recipients of Sigma Xi's top scientist award from the Texas A&M College of Science, including physicists Dr. Olga Kocharovskaya (2012), Dr. Marlan O. Scully (2010) and Dr. Edward S. Fry (2001), as well as chemists Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg (2011), the late Dr. D. Wayne Goodman (2009), Dr. Abraham Clearfield (1999) and the late Dr. F. Albert Cotton (1997).

Gomer earned his Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology and was a professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice University for eight years prior to coming to Texas A&M, where he conducts research in three primary areas of biomedicine: tissue size regulation, tissue cell composition and fibrosing diseases. A former Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, he has authored nearly 200 high impact publications, earning previous recognition as a 2011 Texas Inventor of the Year by the State Bar of Texas, a 2013-2014 National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences and a 2016 finalist for NPR's Golden Mole Award for Accidental Brilliance after serendipitously identifying a protein in human blood -- serum amyloid P (SAP) -- that prevents the formation of scar tissue in fibrotic diseases like asthma and cirrhosis.

Most recently in 2016, Gomer received a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Research and a Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization Excellence in Innovation Award. A fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, he serves on the editorial boards of four journals and holds 13 patents.

In addition to fibrosing diseases, Gomer is known for his research on the single-celled amoebae Dictyostelium and as a co-author of a number of astrophysical research papers, courtesy of his undergraduate degree in physics at Pomona College and his lifelong love of astronomy.

"I was delighted to learn that Richard Gomer had won this year's Sigma Xi award," said Dr. Thomas D. McKnight, professor and head of Texas A&M Biology. "Richard brings to our department not only world-class scientific research, but also an entrepreneurial spirit that has allowed him to shepherd his findings from the lab thorough extensive clinical trials.

"It is important to note the life-saving therapy he and his lab have developed stemmed from basic, curiosity driven research, and that Richard had the wisdom and foresight to focus on the medical implications of his findings. When Louis Pasteur famously said, 'Chance favors the prepared mind,' this is precisely the sort of situation he envisioned."

At Wednesday's reception, Deborah F. Cowman, executive director of the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, was honored with the 2017 Sigma Xi Outstanding Science Communicator Award for demonstrating superior skill and dedication to improving science education. The chapter also presented Outstanding Math or Science Teachers Awards to Jamie Bassett, Outstanding Math Teacher - Middle School, College Station Middle School; Stephanie Ryon, Outstanding Math Teacher - Middle School, A&M Consolidated Middle School; and Vanita Vance, Outstanding Science Teacher - High School, College Station High School.

Founded in 1886 at Cornell University, Sigma Xi is an international, chapter-based organization dedicated to nurturing the research enterprise in all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Unique among scientific honor societies, Sigma Xi has a broad outlook that scans the spectrum of science and technology and is committed to the core values that unite across disciplinary boundaries.

The Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi was chartered July 1, 1951, with a mission "to recognize, encourage and promote scientific research at Texas A&M University and to honor the community of science scholars."

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Contact: Michelle Sullens, (979) 458-4066 or sigmaxi@tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Richard H. Gomer

  • Since teaming up to identify the blood protein serum amyloid P (SAP) as the key to controlling routine tissue-related processes from scarring to healing, Texas A&M biologists Darrell Pilling (left) and Richard Gomer (right) have collaborated on several SAP-related advances, including co-founding a company, Promedior Inc., in 2006.

  • Gomer in his lab within Texas A&M's Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, where he is a member of the structural biology group.

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