URBANA, Ill. – H. Rex Gaskins, a professor of animal sciences and nutritional sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois, was honored as the Keith W. and Sara M. Kelley Endowed Professor of Immunophysiology during an investiture ceremony at U of I on Nov. 7.
Gaskins holds faculty positions in the U of I Departments of Animal Sciences and Pathobiology, the Division of Nutritional Sciences, and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.
The focus of Gaskins’ research is cancer metabolism. He studies the biological basis of the increased risk of colorectal cancer associated with consuming a diet high in saturated fat, as well as the role of mitochondria in tumor cell migration in patients with brain cancer. His work has resulted in a long-time collaboration with bioengineering faculty at Illinois to create genetically encoded biosensors and engineered platforms to study how features of the tumor microenvironment affect cancer cell metabolism.
Gaskins earned a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences from the University of Georgia. He completed postdoctoral studies in immunology and genetics at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, and joined the faculty at U of I in 1992. He has authored 159 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters and has won numerous awards.
“Dr. Gaskins and I have been faculty colleagues for more than 25 years. During this time, I have seen firsthand the quality and impact of his scholarship. His research contributions in the field of immunophysiology have implications for humans and animals alike, making him worthy of this prestigious professorship,” says Rodney Johnson, head of the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.
Keith W. Kelley earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the U of I College of ACES. As a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, he combined his expertise in immunology and neuroscience and brought immunology to physiology. Sara M. (Sims) Kelley earned her bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition from the College of ACES. Among other professional roles, she worked in development for the U of I College of Education and the College of Applied Health Sciences.
The Keith W. and Sara M. Kelley Endowed Professorship of Immunophysiology encourages continued collaborative interdisciplinary work between the College of ACES and Carle Illinois College of Medicine.
“I want to see this program thrive,” Keith Kelley says. “When you think of metabolism, illnesses, and mental health in human cases, immunology and physiology go together. I hope this professorship supports that connection, and that it helps immunology research in context with physiology on this campus move forward.”
Sara Kelley adds, “To really solve the big problems, you have to have people from different disciplines working together. It’s almost a no-brainer. If you are going to do translational research, you need to show how you are going to get from the pig to the human.”
The Kelley Professorship in Immunophysiology, in partnership with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, was specifically designed to make this process easier.