Honoring Dale Webster, Bacterial Hemoglobin Pioneer – March 7

1976 Biology Faculty: (front row) Nicholas Grecz, Kiyoshi Kusano, William Danforth, Dale Webster, Daniel Koblich, Allen Roush; (back row) Donald Jasper, Donald Farquharson Pranab Sarkar, Robert Roth, and Francis Hoskin

The biology department will honor Dale Webster, distinguished professor of biology, professor emeritus, and founder of the field of bacterial hemoglobins, on Thursday, March 7.

The day’s activities will include a lunch, campus tour, and visit to the department. At 4:00 pm, Serge Vinogradov (Ph.D. CHEM ’60), professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Wayne State University, will speak on “Hemoglobins: from Man to Bacteria and Back.” A reception will follow. All are welcome. Please RSVP for the lecture here.

Webster taught at IIT from 1968-2000 and had a distinguished career as both a researcher and teacher. In 1986, he reported in Nature that the bacterium Vitreoscilla produces a dimeric hemoglobin, which founded the field of bacterial hemoglobins. “At the time, it was astonishing to learn that hemoglobins were not just found in vertebrate animals but are much more widely distributed,” said Ben Stark, professor of biology.

Bacterial hemoglobins have a wide variety of biotechnological applications. For example, Vitreoscilla hemoglobin, or VHb, improves cell respiration and growth and is used to genetically engineer improved biochemical properties of diverse bacteria and even eukaryotes for increased production of biofuels, plastics, and other uses. Biology and environmental engineering researchers at IIT have described how VHb can enhance ethanol production in Escherichia coli in a variety of growth media by increasing the oxygen supply.

Beyond his record as a researcher, Webster is a well loved teacher whose students recall him as a warm, caring, engaging teacher who encouraged discussion, debate, and scholarship. He was named an IIT Distinguished Professor in 2000.

Vinogradov’s research interests center on the physical and chemical properties of nonvertebrate hemoglobins, which, unlike vertebrate hemoglobins, exhibit a wide variation in their covalent and subunit structures as well as several orders of magnitude greater variation in ligand binding affinities and kinetics. He has published 163 papers, 21 book chapters, and two books, and has received many teaching honors.

To learn more, please contact Tom Irving, biology chair, at irving@iit.edu.