Professor receives UNC award for public service

Scott Bigelow

November 8, 2013

CHAPEL HILL — Ben A. Bahr, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, received the James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service Friday from the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina.

The award, presented during the board’s regular November meeting was established in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize and reward distinguished public service and outreach by faculty across the university system. The award was recently renamed in honor and memory of the late Holshouser, who was governor of North Carolina from 1973-77 and served on the University’s Board of Governors for more than three decades. The 2013 award carries a $7,500 cash prize and was presented by UNC President Tom Ross and Public Service Award Committee members Raiford Trask and Dick Taylor of Lumberton.

An internationally recognized expert on age-related neuro-degenerative disorders, Bahr was recruited to UNC Pembroke in 2009, where he continues to conduct cutting-edge research on Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders. Bahr’s work has enabled undergraduate students to participate in groundbreaking research that has global implications for improving health and quality of life.

By first identifying the pathways through which brain cells eliminate destructive proteins, Bahr has been able to create ways to accelerate that process. Research shows that removing these proteins improves cognition andmemory in laboratory animals, potentially improving the long-term outlook for people suffering from or at risk for Alzheimer’s and related disorders. Bahr has since identified a drug compound that could slow or even reverse the course of the disease, and last year filed UNCP’s first patent application.

Bahr has also become an important ambassador for UNCP, with frequent speaking engagements to civic groups, local schools, community colleges and science-related organizations. Through such outreach, he works hard to bring the brain and its disorders to an understandable level for every type of audience, and to educate the community about the importance of Alzheimer’s research and other areas of medical research. In addition to raising public awareness of the disease and recent advances, he also regularly consults with local Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Bahr holds undergraduate degrees in molecular biology and biochemistry, along with a doctorate in chemistry, from the University of California-Santa Barbara. He also completed postdoctoral work at the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California-Irvine.

A video profile of Bahr will air Monday, November 11 on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Now at 7:30 p.m.

A reception to honor Bahr will be held Monday, November 25 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Chancellor’s Dining Room of the James B. Chavis University Center.

Scott Bigelow is a public communications specialist at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.