David Warshaw, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor (Photo: David Seaver)
University of Vermont Provost and Senior Vice President Patty Prelock has announced that David Warshaw, Ph.D., professor and chair of molecular physiology and biophysics at the UVM Larner College of Medicine, is a 2021 recipient of the University Distinguished Professor Award – the highest academic honor that UVM can bestow upon a member of the faculty.
Other 2021 faculty recipients of this honor are Michael Giangreco, Ph.D., professor of education, and Jianke Yang, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and statistics.
This title recognizes faculty members who have achieved an international reputation as top scholars within their respective fields of study and made transformative contributions to the advancement of knowledge. No more than five percent of full professors may hold an active appointment as a University Distinguished Professor at any one time. They serve as an informal advisory body to the leadership of the university.
A 1978 UVM doctoral degree alum, Warshaw is an internationally renowned leader in the structure and function of tiny, myosin molecular motors that power both muscle contraction and the transport of intracellular cargo, such as insulin granules. His groundbreaking discoveries over the course of his career include developing technology to measure the molecular-level force generated by these tiny motor proteins. This technological advance was critical to his paradigm-shifting discovery that patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) have a genetic mutation to the cardiac myosin that results in the motor generating greater power than normal. In response, the heart enlarges and stops pumping blood effectively, leading to heart failure and most notably sudden death in young athletes. His discovery was the basis for the design of drugs being successfully used to “throttle back” the heart’s molecular motor in patients with HCM.
Warshaw is described by his peers as being able to illuminate “the complexity of muscle mechanics” while communicating “complex concepts in ways students, physicians and scientists without his expertise can appreciate the elegance and the impact of his science”. This is equally evident in his 137 publications that have been cited over 10,000 times.
Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Warshaw joined the faculty in 1983 and established his own laboratory, where in addition to studying individual molecular motor proteins (myosin), he and his team pioneered the use of state-of-the-art techniques, including single molecule motility assays and laser traps.
The recipient of the Larner College of Medicine’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award in 2017, Warshaw has been the longtime principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Program Project Grant focused on the molecular basis of genetic heart failure. His additional honors include recognition as an Established Investigator and Fellow of the American Heart Association, Fellow of the Biophysical Society, and member of the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering. He has organized numerous international conferences and symposia and serves on a number of NIH review panels. He has mentored roughly 30 pre- and postdoctoral fellows while at UVM; many of who have gone on to successful careers in academia.
Other Larner College of Medicine faculty members who currently hold the title of University Distinguished Professor are Ralph Budd, M.D., from the Department of Medicine, Brooke Mossman, Ph.D., from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Mark Nelson, Ph.D., from the Department of Pharmacology, and Russell Tracy, Ph.D., from the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.