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Chris Hill Honored as 2020 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Member

View the original article by Julie Kiefer here.


Christopher P. Hill, DPhil, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at University of Utah Health, is among the 276 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together.

Among those joining Hill in the class of 2020 are singer, songwriter, and activist Joan Baez; Native American scholar and artist Edge Heap of Birds; and bioethicist R. Alto Charo. New members will be inducted at an event to be held October 9 – 11, 2020.

Hill joins 18 other members either currently or formerly affiliated with the U, including Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, Ph.D., Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle, Ph.D., and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Kristen Hawkes, Ph.D. The U’s first member was chemist and National Medal of Science recipient Henry Eyring, Ph.D., elected in 1958.

“Coincidentally, my wife and I were hiking in celebration of her birthday and I was thinking about how lucky I have been, when this very pleasant surprise arrived in my mailbox,” Hill says. “One of the things for which I feel especially grateful is that the U provides an ideal academic environment, replete with the generous colleagues and talented trainees that allow us do the best science possible.” Hill also serves as Vice Dean for Research in the School of Medicine and holds the H.A. and Edna Benning Medical Society Chair.

Hill was elected to the Academy for being “one of the leading structural biologists of his generation.” He and his lab use structural and biochemical approaches to study how proteins function. This work has led to important insights into fundamental biology and has fueled new ideas for combatting disease. 

Among his accomplishments, his research on HIV-host interactions has led to new discoveries of how molecular machines work in cells and may inspire novel approaches for treating multiple diseases. His investigations into proteins that regulate gene expression is providing fundamental insights and may provide clues into the basis of a number of health conditions including mental impairment and cancers.

“We’re all ecstatic,” says biochemistry chair Wesley Sundquist, Ph.D. In addition to Hill, Sundquist is one of four faculty in the department who are Academy members. “This is a truly wonderful honor and it’s so richly deserved in Chris’ case. Throughout his career, he has combined cutting edge structural and biochemical studies with a true gift for using protein structures to glean deep mechanistic insights. That combination of skills has enabled him to make important discoveries across a remarkable range of biology and medicine, from protein unfolding to HIV biology to nucleosome remodeling.”

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Studies compiled by the Academy have helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education, and the humanities.

Current Academy members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.