Dr. Jenny HsiehBiology Professor Seeks Cure for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Imagine a future without the fear of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy or other brain disorders. Professor Jenny Hsieh, Ph.D. Semmes Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cell Biology, chair of the Neuroscience, Developmental and Regenerative Biology department, and director of the UTSA Brain Health Consortium, has dedicated her life's work to understanding, at the cellular level, the genetic and epigenetic causes of neurodegenerative diseases so that we may develop targeted therapeutics for treating and curing these conditions. Critical to recruiting and attracting Hsieh was a $2.7 million gift from The Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation and an endowment for the Semmes Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cell Biology.
Endowments provide funding for scientists to conduct research that may not otherwise be funded at early stages by traditional governmental funding agencies. Once an idea is proven to show promise, scientists then seek larger grants from governmental funding agencies, such as the National Institute for Health (NIH). For example, Hsieh and a transdisciplinary team of researchers from the Brain Health Consortium secured $12.5 million from the NIH to optimize a new method for producing marmosets that have genetic changes that can be used to study human brain diseases. Endowments enable researchers to lay the scientific groundwork for grants such as this and bring together talent and expertise that is vital to impactful research.
In order to maintain R1 designation, we have to be able to continue to recruit outstanding faculty at all levels. Endowed chairs help us attract and retain the best at UTSA.
The support from Hsieh's endowed position also funds valuable resources, like new instrumentation, which is utilized by scientists and students. New technology ensures the next generation of scientists enter the workforce or a graduate program prepared.
“With my endowment we are able to purchase cutting-edge technology that is shared and enhances research across the Brain Health Consortium,” said Hsieh.
As a world-renowned brain health scientist and stem cell expert, Hsieh played a pivotal role in helping the university achieve Carnegie R1 research status, placing UTSA among the nation's top research universities. She noted the importance of endowed positions at the university and their role in keeping this designation.
“In order to maintain R1 designation, we have to be able to continue to recruit outstanding faculty at all levels. Endowed chairs help us attract and retain the best at UTSA,” Hsieh expressed.
In addition to her teaching and research activities, Hsieh serves as the director of UTSA's Brain Health Consortium, a campus-wide transdisciplinary research initiative - made up of over 40 full-time faculty members - that spans the topics of precision medicine, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, psychology, and behavior. Beyond her role at UTSA, Hsieh serves as a study section member for the National Institutes of Health and the American Epilepsy Society and sits on the editorial board as a reviewing editor for The Journal of Neuroscience. She is excited to continue conducting groundbreaking research in the Hsieh lab with her colleagues, and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students who can go on to become successful in their own independent research settings across the globe.
“The support I've received from the Semmes Foundation's endowment and The Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation allows me and my team to work on innovative, outside-the-box ideas that have the potential to lead to scientific breakthroughs. I am truly grateful for their support,” said Hsieh.