Kristin Parent named James K. Billman Jr., M.D. Endowed Research Professor

  • Oct 23, 2018
  • Research, philanthropy, Endowed Professor, Faculty
  • Homepage News, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Research, Biochemistry, College of Natural Science
Image of Kristin Parent at her inverstiture ceremony
Kristin Parent, assistant professor in the MSU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was invested as the first James K. Billman, Jr., M.D. Endowed Research Professor at an investiture ceremony on Oct. 22. Photo credit: Harley J. Seeley

Assistant Professor Kristin Parent was installed as the first James K. Billman, Jr., M.D. Endowed Research Professor in the MSU College of Natural Science (NatSci) Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB).

“The college and the university are very fortunate to have someone of Kristin’s standing to occupy this important position,” said Phillip M. Duxbury, NatSci dean. “We are thrilled that Kristin has been recognized with this honor and look forward to great things. We also want to thank Dr. Billman, for whom this professorship is named, for his generosity and vision.”

Parent, who was recruited to MSU in 2013, conducts pioneering research at MSU using electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) and three-dimensional image reconstruction methods. She uses these cutting-edge technologies to better understand the underlying mechanisms that control virus infection and decipher the processes of virus assembly. Her research has led to important discoveries regarding the structure and species diversity of Shigella phages and other dsDNA-containing bacteriophage.

Parent said that she is honored and pleased to hold the Billman Research Professorship.

“As a first-generation college student, and a woman in STEM, science can often be challenging,” Parent said. “This award is a fantastic honor, and it feels amazing to be recognized by my colleagues. I couldn’t be happier. I wholeheartedly thank Dr. Billman for his kindness and generosity, both to me and to MSU.”

Parent received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut in 2007 and subsequently served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, before joining MSU.  She has more than 30 published research papers, including a 2018 manuscript in the Journal of Virology, featuring work on isolating bacteriophages from MSU’s campus.

Parent has earned several prestigious awards for her groundbreaking work, including the 2018 National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award, the 2017 American Society for Microbiology Young Investigator Award, and the 2015 AAAS Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences. Her acclaimed research has laid the groundwork for MSU to become a leader in advanced cryo-EM microscopy.

Erich Grotewold, BMB chair, said that in addition to being an outstanding scientist, Parent is a well-rounded professor.

“In addition to her scientific achievements, Kristin is an excellent and well-recognized mentor and teacher,” Grotewold said. “She is also a very valuable member of the department and the scientific community at MSU. As a new department chair, I especially appreciate her leadership skill and ability to get things done and am pleased to be able to participate in conferring to Kristin this well-deserved honor.”

Grotewold also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Billman for providing this endowed position in support of the department.

“Jim has been a good friend of the department and has provided support for undergraduate research in the past,” Grotewold said. “We are grateful for his support and the example he has set in nurturing the development of people.”

Billman graduated from MSU with a B.S. in biochemistry from the Honors College. He earned his M.D. degree at The Ohio State University and subsequently trained in the specialties of anatomic and clinical pathology at the University of Michigan. Following medical practice as a pathologist in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, he joined the Quad Cities Pathologists Group serving Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa and is enjoying a long career in pathology and laboratory medicine. 

The investiture ceremony took place Oct. 22 at MSU’s Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. MSU Assistant Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, Doug Gage, NatSci Dean Phil Duxbury, BMB Chair Erich Grotewold and the donor, James K. Billman, Jr., were present at the ceremony.


Banner image: (L to R): Phil Duxbury, NatSci dean; Erich Grotewold, BMB chair; Kristin Parent, James K. Billman, Jr.; and Doug Gage, assistant president for research and granduate studies at MSU, pose with Parent following her installment as the first James K. BIllman, Jr., M.D. Endowed Research Professor. Photo credit: Harley J. Seeley

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