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Dr. Becker with Students

A Celebration of the Legacy of Jeffrey Becker

Dr. Jeffrey M. Becker is the David and Sandra White Endowed Professor and Chancellor's Professor and Head of the Department of Microbiology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Dr. Becker received a BA in biology from Emory University and a PhD in microbiology from The University of Cincinnati.  He was trained in biophysics at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovoth, Israel, as a Weizmann Fellow and a NATO/NSF Postdoctoral Fellow under Professors Ephraim Katzir and Meir Wilchek. After his post-doctoral fellowship, Dr. Becker was appointed Assistant Professor in Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1972. Dr. Becker's major research interests are in the structure and function of peptides and their receptors, membrane transport, and medical mycology. 

Dr. Becker has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles and has been awarded grants for research from many agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Cancer Society, and the National Science Foundation. He was awarded a Research Career Development Award from NIH, was named a UT Chancellor's Research Scholar, received UT's Alexander Prize exemplifying the ideal teacher-scholar, and was Marshall of the University of Tennessee College of Arts & Sciences.  Dr. Becker was the founding Director of the interdisciplinary graduate program of Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology and of the UT-ORNL Graduate School of Genome Sciences (GST).  He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in microbial physiology, medical mycology, membrane biology, introduction to microbiology, cell biology, and biochemistry. Dr. Becker has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2011 Dr. Becker was named Chancellor's Professor, the highest lifetime honor that can be accorded to a member of the faculty of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In 2015 he was appointed as the first David and Sandra White Endowed Professor of Microbiology.

He has received almost continuous funding from NIH for 39 years. He has served on many NIH study sections, including serving as permanent member of Drug Discovery and Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Physiology, on the editorial board of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (21 years), and as Associate Editor of the journal Microbiology. Dr. Becker has served as a consultant to the pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly, Merck, Smith-Kline Beckman, Magainin Sciences, and Elitra. Dr. Becker was one of the four founders and member of the scientific advisory board of a new biotechnology company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose goal was to find and develop new drugs for infectious diseases. That company, Mycopharmaceuticals, Inc., merged subsequently with Millenium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The research carried out in Dr. Becker's laboratory involves the molecular biology of membrane transport, the structure and function of peptide pheromones/hormones and their receptors, and the discovery of fungal virulence factors.  Dr. Becker trained over thirty-five doctoral and masters students who took post-doctoral fellowships at institutions including U. California-Berkeley, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, Case Western, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and CalTech. His former students now hold faculty or staff positions at St. Michael's College, U. Alabama, National Cancer Institute, FDA, New Mexico State, Nebraska Wesleyan, Centers for Disease Control-Atlanta, Clark Atlanta U., Rhodes College, Mercer U., U. North Dakota, Purdue, and Case Western. His laboratory hosted over two hundred undergraduate research fellows.

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