January 12, 2017
By Sydney Slotkin DuPriest
OXFORD, Miss. – Kristine Willett, professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology, has been chosen as chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.
The Department of BioMolecular Sciences encompasses the divisions of environmental toxicology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacognosy and pharmacology. Several members of the department nominated Willett, a native of Wooster, Ohio, as a candidate for the position and encouraged her to pursue the opportunity.
As chair, recruiting new faculty and graduate students to enhance the school’s research and teaching expertise is one of her highest priorities, Willett said.
“We are in an exciting time in our department,” she said. “We must remain committed to strengthening our graduate program and recruiting and nurturing the best graduate students from local, regional and international pools.”
John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry, chaired the search committee for Willett’s position. They have worked together since Willett joined the school in 2000.
“Kristie brings commitment, service and optimism to this position,” Rimoldi said. “The faculty will benefit from her collective experiences in toxicology research and education at the university and national levels. I am confident she will provide inspired leadership to the department.”
Willett’s research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of toxicity and human diseases. Her lab uses zebrafish to screen for potential ways to control seizures and study the effects of environmental contaminants on early development. Her research is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The School of Pharmacy has recognized Willett as a Distinguished Teaching Scholar, and she has taught courses in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College since 2009. Nationally, she is chair of the Society of Toxicology’s undergraduate education committee and mentors the graduate student council as part of the board of directors of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
“Kristie is deeply and diversely involved on campus and in the School of Pharmacy,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “She has a strong vision for the future of the department and an incredibly positive and can-do attitude, which are absolutely essential to lead in this capacity.”
Willett said she hopes to help ensure the success of the department’s faculty, staff and students by “reflecting a positive attitude and commitment to place.”
“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to develop my career here at the University of Mississippi, and I look forward to facilitating the continued success of our department and school,” she said.