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Juniata Graduation May 17; Chemist John Kuriyan to Deliver Commencement Address

(Posted May 12, 2014)

John Kuriyan, professor of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- John Kuriyan, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley and a 1981 Juniata College graduate, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and deliver the commencement address at Juniata's 136th Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 17 on the Juniata campus.

John Kuriyan, a native of India, earned a Juniata bachelor's degree in chemistry. He started his college education in 1977 at the University of Madras, but transferred to Juniata when he was selected for a Juniata scholarship established by a Huntingdon-area physician, Dr. V.V. Rao.

He went on to earn a doctorate in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986, followed by postdoctoral studies for a year at Harvard University.

Kuriyan began his faculty career at The Rockefeller University, a graduate university in New York City, working primarily in research for 14 years. The opportunity to teach undergraduates, which he missed at Rockefeller, motivated him to join the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where in addition to running a research lab engaged in cancer research, he teaches undergraduates about the connection between biological systems and fundamental ideas in physics and chemistry.

In 2012 he, with two of his colleagues, published a textbook, "The Molecules of Life," based on the classes he teaches at Berkeley, and he was particularly thrilled to learn that the book is used in courses at Juniata.

He credits the undergraduate education he received at Juniata with sparking his interest in all aspects of science.

He credits the undergraduate education he received at Juniata with sparking his interest in all aspects of science, and regrets that the large classes he teaches at Berkeley prevents him from engaging in the one-on-one interactions with undergraduates that is the hallmark of the Juniata experience.

Kuriyan was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2001, one of five Juniata alumni to be named to this prestigious organization.
In addition to his duties at the University of California, Kuriyan also is a researcher at the Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory in the Physical Biosciences Division. He also has served as an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1990. Kuriyan was named a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences from 1989 to 1993.

He received the 2005 Lounsbery Award from the National Academy of Sciences, an award given every year to "a single scientific investigator, under the age of 45, who has made significant contributions to medicine or biology." In 2009, he received the Merck Award from ASBMB for his contributions in structural biology.

Kuriyan is active in the biotech industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, having co-founded one company, Nurix, and serving as a consultant for others. He also serves on the editorial board for the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" and is a senior editor of e-Life, a new precedent-setting journal that aims to make open-access publishing the favored venue for publishing the most influential science.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.