WPI Selects Kristen K. Wobbe for Kinnicutt Assistant Professorship

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Kristin N. Wobbe of Lexington, Mass., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been named the 1999 Leonard P. Kinnicutt Assistant Professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The appointment is effective for three years and includes substantial funding to further professional development.

Wobbe, who earned a 1983 B.A. degree from St. Olaf College and a 1991 Ph.D. degree from Harvard University, has been an assistant professor at WPI since 1995. She spent a year as a research associate at Harvard, followed by three years as a research associate and National Science Foundation fellow at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, and a year as a research associate and NSF fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research and teaching interests include molecular interactions that determine the outcome of plant/pathogen interactions.

"A wide variety of plant pathogens cause millions of dollars of crop loss each year," Wobbe explains. "Pesticides used to limit these losses, while effective in the short term, are expensive and can have potentially deleterious side effects on the surrounding ecosystems. Though the presence of natural resistance traits in plants has been known for centuries and utilized in breeding projects, little is known about how resistance is developed and maintained. The long-term goal of my research is to develop a greater understanding of the mechanisms by which plants resist pathogens, in the hope that we can utilize the plant's natural resistance mechanisms for a greater range of pathogens, eliminating the need for chemical pesticides."

The Leonard P. Kinnicutt Professorship, awarded to encourage younger faculty in their professional development, honors a Worcester, Mass., native who served on the WPI faculty from 1882 to 1911. It was established in 1964 as part of a bequest from George C. Gordon, a member of the WPI class of 1895. The $5-million gift also made possible the building of the George C. Gordon Library and a substantial increase in the university's endowment fund. Gordon said Kinnicutt was the professor who most influenced the course of his life.

Gordon was the youngest of three brothers to graduate from WPI. In 1911, after working at American Steel and Wire and Wyman-Gordon (founded by his brother, Lyman), he became vice president and general manager of the Park Drop Forge Co. in Cleveland. He later became president and chairman of the board of the company and was active in business and as an investor until his death in 1964 at the age of 91.

WPI is an independent technological university founded in 1865.