Ann Palmenberg receives Hilldale Award

Ann Palmenberg, professor of biochemistry and director of the Institute for Molecular Virology,  will receive the Hilldale Award at the April meeting of the Faculty Senate. The Hilldale Award is the the university’s top honor for faculty members. Since 1987, these awards have honored professors who excel in teaching, research and service. Honors are given in each of four divisions: biological sciences, physical sciences, social studies and arts and humanities. Palmenberg is this year’s honoree for biological sciences.

Palmenberg first came to UW–Madison as a graduate student, returning in 1979 as a research scientist. In 1987, she took on a teaching role. She has made groundbreaking discoveries related to the mechanisms by which RNA viruses multiply and cause diseases in animals.

Her particular expertise involves a family of RNA viruses called picornaviruses (small RNA). These include pathogens such as poliovirus, human hepatitis A virus and human rhinoviruses.

As lead author, she received extensive recognition, in both the scientific world and the global media, for collaborating with the first team that described the nucleotide sequences, evolution and comparative analysis of all 99 known strains of the human rhinovirus. This study may contribute to the cure for the common cold.

In her teaching, she developed UW–Madison’s first didactic and computer-based courses on bioinformatics of sequence analysis. Despite — and because of — constant changes in the technology, she has constantly rewritten and repackaged the course material to address both updates in scientific content and the many different audiences who benefit from ongoing training.

In addition to training Ph.D. students in sequence analysis, she has also extended these educational opportunities in bioinformatics to graduate students in other fields, as well as undergraduates, faculty, staff and employees from local biotechnology firms.

Her service to colleagues also includes hosting four annual meetings of the American Society of Virology, the largest virology conference in the world. No other individual has hosted as many conferences on behalf of this organization.

Palmenberg received her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and her doctorate from UW–Madison.