Joseph Jez named Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology

Joseph Jez is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Chair of the Biology Department at Washington University. He was recently named Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences.

"Being named a Spencer T. Olin Professor is a great honor not just for me, but also for the colleagues in the lab - the students and postdocs - who have shared in the scientific journey over the years."

Jez joined the Biology Department and set up his research lab in 2008. He became Department Chair in 2018. Jez's research group seeks to broadly understand how environmental changes re-model biochemical pathways in plants at the molecular, cellular, and organism levels with the aim of engineering these systems to address agricultural and environmental problems.

His current work in the lab employs a combination of x-ray crystallography, enzymology, molecular biology, proteomics, and plant biology. Three areas of research in the lab focus on metabolic regulation and environmental responses in plants, enzymatic control of plant hormone responses, and using C. elegans to explore new metabolic pathways in nematodes.

About Ann W. and Spencer T. Olin

The professorship Jez now holds was established in 1996 with a bequest from Spencer T. Olin, a longtime member of the WUSTL Board of Trustees.

Spencer Olin graduated in 1921 from Cornell University and began his career working in the family business, Western Cartridge Co. in East Alton, Ill. With several mergers and acquisitions the company grew throughout the 21st century, diversifying into chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paper products, plastics, mining, home construction and automotive specialties. In the 1950s, the Olin Corp. had 35,000 employees working in 46 domestic and 17 overseas plants.

The Ann Whitney Olin Women’s Building is named for Olin’s wife, Ann Whitney Olin. Spencer and Ann Olin also directed their generosity toward the Mr. and Mrs. Spencer T. Olin Fellowship program for Women in Graduate Study, the Olin conference on women in higher education and the professions, and the Olin Residence Hall at the School of Medicine.

The Olins endowed seven professorships, including two in biology and others in mathematics, engineering and medicine.

Ann Olin died in 1976; Spencer Olin died in 1995.