Kristin Wobbe Installed as First Metzger Professor of Chemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Endowed Department Headship Made Possible through the Generosity of John Metzger, Class of 1946, and his Wife, Jean Metzger
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October 15, 2008

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WORCESTER, Mass.– October 15, 2008 – Today, Kristin N. Wobbe, head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), was installed as the first Metzger Professor of Chemistry during a ceremony held on campus. The endowed professorship was established in 2007 through a $1.5 million gift from John C. Metzger Jr. ‘46, and his wife, Jean. John Metzger, who spent his entire career at E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., died in December 2006.

  • Watch a video of the installation ceremony.
  • Read President Dennis Berkey's remarks.(pdf, 45 kb)
  • Read the remarks of John Orr, WPI’s provost and senior vice president.
  • Read Professor Wobbe’s address.

The Metzger Professorship is awarded to the head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which is internationally recognized for its cutting-edge research on a broad range of topics with real-world applications, including nanofabrication (handheld medical analyzers); ion transport across cell membranes (improved plant nutrition); molecular biology (pathogen-resistant plants); and solid-state chemistry (improved medications). Wobbe was appointed interim department head in January of 2007 and began a regular-term appointment in July 2008.

“Kristin Wobbe has distinguished herself through her important research in the life sciences, her efforts to advance educational innovation, and her academic leadership,” said John A. Orr, provost and senior vice president. “I am delighted that we are able to recognize her accomplishments and her many contributions to the WPI community in such a meaningful and appropriate manner.”

Wobbe, who joined the WPI faculty in 1995, holds a BA in chemistry from St. Olaf College and a PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University. She completed a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School and then spent three years as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University and Massachusetts General Hospital. During that time she began her research on the molecular interactions that determine the outcomes of plant/pathogen interactions using a model system consisting of Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of cruciferous crop plants, and turnip crinkle virus.

Wobbe was named the Leonard P. Kinnicutt Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1999. In 2001, she received the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education and was also promoted to associate professor of chemistry. In 2007, she co-developed and co-taught Feed the World, one of the inaugural Great Problems Seminars designed to bring to the freshman year the project emphasis that is the hallmark of WPI’s innovative approach to undergraduate education.

As a member of WPI’s Interdisciplinary Plant Research Group and one of 30 WPI faculty members in four academic departments who conduct research in the WPI’s new Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park, she has explored a number of ways to augment the production by plants of artemisinin, a potent antimalarial compound.

John Metzger, a native of Norristown, Pa., studied at WPI under the U.S. Navy's wartime V-12 program, graduating in 1945 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. He served as a commissioned officer during World War II and then joined E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., where he spent his entire professional career.

He was elected a vice president in 1978 and retired in 1986 as group vice president for the Photosystems and Electronic Products Division. Among his significant accomplishments was the launch of Dupont's instruments business, which produced a line of automatic clinical analyzers used in thousands of hospitals and clinics worldwide.

A member of the WPI’s Fire Protection Engineering Advisory Board and a longtime member of the university’s Board of Trustees, he received the Robert H. Goddard '08 Alumni Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement in 1981 and was a member of the Presidential Founders, a lifetime member of the WPI President's Advisory Council, and charter member of the George I. Alden Society.

"The establishment of the Metzger Professorship was very important to my husband because he so passionately wanted young people to go into science," Jean Metzger said in 2007. "It was rewarding for him to know that his gift would help WPI carry on its tradition of empowering students with both knowledge and practical experience. I have never known another person to have such a passion for his alma mater as John had for WPI, and I am delighted that his legacy will live on through this professorship."