Richard Burgess receives WMAA Basic Sciences Emeritus Faculty Award

The McArdle Laboratory is pleased to announce that Dr. Richard Burgess has received the Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association (WMAA) Basic Sciences Emeritus Faculty Award. This award is given to a basic research scientist who demonstrates long and effective service to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in teaching, research, and/or noteworthy administration, including program development.

Dr. Burgess is the James D. Watson Professor Emeritus of Oncology and has been a faculty member in the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research since 1971. His research has focused on the machinery required for transcription and its regulation. Among his many scientific accomplishments was determining the subunit structure of RNA polymerase, one of the earliest characterized multisubunit protein complexes. Perhaps even more significantly, he also discovered and characterized the first positive transcription factor, the E. coli sigma factor. This pioneering protein biochemical study provided the basis for all subsequent research on transcription factors and their role in normal and abnormal gene regulation.

Over the course of his tenure at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Burgess has trained 32 Ph.D. students and published over 250 research papers. He is a major contributor in developing and teaching powerful protein biochemistry methods and in organizing conferences and editing manuscripts and books on protein purification.

In 1984, Prof. Burgess founded the UW Biotechnology Center (UWBC) and served as its director for 12 years. The UWBC sought to help apply basic discoveries in biotechnology at UW-Madison towards meeting the needs of society and the citizens of Wisconsin. This center provided a much-needed focus for the rich biotechnology research community on campus, as well as essential shared equipment and service programs to make cutting edge research tools available to the campus community. These services were also available to the new biotechnology business community, which the UWBC actively encouraged and promoted. In the first 30 years of the UWBC, the number of biotechnology companies in the Madison area grew from 3 to over 200. Dr. Burgess was a pioneer of promoting multidisciplinary research programs, and in championing public education in biology and biotechnology.

“Dr. Burgess is an internationally recognized, accomplished, and distinguished scientist,” said Gary Tarpley, chief operating officer of the Promega Corporation. “The University of Wisconsin and the Madison-based biotechnology community have benefitted significantly from his many contributions. There are few scientists as distinguished as Dick who have contributed so much to science and the reputation of scientific excellence at UW-Madison.”

Dr. Burgess’s award expands on the legacy of exemplary service by McArdle Laboratory faculty members. Other McArdle faculty who have been honored with the WMAA Basic Sciences Emeritus Faculty Award in the past include Van Potter, James Miller, Henry Pitot, Roswell Boutwell, Gerald Mueller, and William Dove.