DDHS Alumni Jeffrey wins research excellence award

Dr. Christ Jeffrey, Chemistry Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a DDHS Class of '98 grad.

Dr. Christ Jeffrey, Chemistry Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a DDHS Class of ’98 grad.

Congratulations are in order for University of Nevada, Reno Chemistry Professor Christopher Jeffrey, a Delavan-Darien High School Class of 1998 gradate, for winning the Mousel-Feltner Excellence in Research Award.

This award is given in recognition of outstanding research performance by a faculty member in the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno in a particular year or for a particular accomplishment. This award honors well-known and respected medical community members, Dr. Donald Mousel and Dr. William Feltner, who lent time, energy and provided gifts to various community and university causes.

Jeffrey heads a highly active lab group that conducts fundamental research on the role of natural products in the origin and maintenance of biodiversity, as well as traditional research in target-directed organic synthesis. His work has been published in numerous scholarly papers and journals.

Check out Dr. Jeffrey’s activities in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Research including Chemical Ecology, Plant-Animal Interactions, Physiological Ecology, and Global Change. http://www.unr.edu/eecb/people/christopher-jeffrey

Jeffrey graduated from Carroll College in 2002 with a bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry. He earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and had a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Princeton before moving on to the University of Nevada, Reno.

Much of his work is done in the tropics, looking for new ways to develop more efficient synthesis for the preparation and manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs. His other area of interests deals with the chemical diversity of the tropics. He considers his work a hybrid of chemistry and ecology.

“At a very fundamental level… we look at molecular evolution and answer questions about nurture vs. nature,” Jeffrey said. “No one else in world really does that, except the team at Reno. We’re pretty much only ones working on it.”

For example, Jeffrey said the relationships between plants and caterpillars, which is one thing he studies, can yield exciting breakthroughs for medicine. Plants are a food source for caterpillars, so they evolve to develop natural defenses so they won’t be eaten. As the plants evolve, the caterpillars have to evolve, too. It must adapt to desire the changed food source to preserve the species.

It’s those types of changes at the molecular level that can be transferred into breakthroughs medical labs to make medicines that ward off attacking diseases.

Jeffrey credits the personal one-on-one attention he got from DDHS staff, and the teamwork he often performed with his classmates, to of the reasons he’s a successful scientist today.

“The strong sense of community at DDHS is one of the things that helped me grow,” he said. “It’s definitely something I learned and use now throughout my career.

“The small-school environment at DDHS and the special attention I got there was inspiring. It was amazing how many talented people I had in my graduating class who have gone on to do wonderful things. There are a lot of examples of that. You don’t have to go to the best prep school in the world to be successful.”

Jeffrey’s success is just one of the many we’re glad to say started at DDHS. Congratulations on your award, Dr. Jeffrey!

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