November 6, 2014

Stephen Ragsdale named David Ballou Collegiate Professor

The David Ballou Collegiate Professorship was established by the Department of Biological Chemistry in August 2014. David Ballou, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in Biological Chemistry, is recognized for his work on flavins and biological oxidation

mechanisms and is widely respected and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 40 years, often by multiple grants. Dr. Ballou contributed substantially to nearly all aspects of teaching and committee service through the Department as well. He taught in and directed courses in undergraduate, medical and dental biochemistry, as well as multiple graduate courses in specialized aspects of biochemistry and chemical biology. 

Dr. Stephen W. Ragsdale received his B.S. in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1979 and his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1983 working under the direction of Professor Lars G. Ljungdahl. From 1984 to 1987, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Case Western Reserve University with Professor Harland Wood. He was recruited to our Department in 2007 as Professor of Biological Chemistry after being a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Charles E. Bessey Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Steve has made major contributions to our understanding of complex metalloenzymes used by anaerobic microbes to catalyze the key steps in the biological carbon cycle. His major research activities have focused on the involvement of redox and metal homeostasis in metabolic regulation in humans and an anaerobic microbial biochemistry of biological methane formation/utilization and carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide uptake, reduction and fixation. In honor of his contributions to understanding anaerobic microbial metabolism, Professor Ralph Tanner named a newly discovered anaerobic bacterium after Steve — Clostridium ragsdalii.

Steve has also been involved in various activities aimed at educating the next generation of scientists through undergraduate and graduate coursework and lay community projects. In his study of anaerobic microbial biochemistry, Dr. Ragsdale has shown that these key processes in the carbon cycle involve unusual enzymes, which contain complex metal centers (nickel iron-sulfur clusters, nickel corphin, and cobalamin) and utilize mechanisms that involve nucleophilic metal ions, organo-metallic intermediates and specialized tunnels as gas channels. Dr. Ragsdale has broad interests relating science to the arts and humanities. While at the University of Nebraska, he was awarded the Outstanding Research and Creativity Award, was a founding member of the Ethics Center, taught courses in biochemistry as well as in creative processes, and organized the university-wide Nebraska Lectures and symposia on evolution. Similarly, at the University of Michigan, he revamped his Creativity in the Sciences and Arts course (which was featured in the June 2011 issue of ASBMB Today), organized community-based symposia on global warming, has been a finalist for the U-M Provost’s Teaching Innovation Award, and has taught science courses in the Ann Arbor community. He is known as “Steve the Science Guy” at a local youth shelter. 

Congratulations, Steve, on this well deserved recognition!

Stephen Ragsdale, Ph.D.

David Ballou Collegiate Professor of Biological Chemistry
Professor, Biological Chemistry
(734) 615-4621