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Nobile Awarded Kamangar Family Endowed Chair

October 7, 2019
Professor Clarissa Nobile researches biofilms, as well as fungal pathogens such as the one that causes Valley fever.

Professor Clarissa Nobile has been named the newest Kamangar Family Endowed Chair in Biological Sciences and will be honored at a private ceremony with the donors this fall.

“I am so pleased and honored to have been named to this chair,” Nobile said. “Thank you for investing in me and the future of biomedical research on infectious diseases at UC Merced.”

Dr. Art Kamangar, who helped pioneer the artificial hip transplant procedure, and his family are longtime friends of UC Merced and have been advocating for the campus since its inception. He is a recent recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal , the highest honor for extraordinary accomplishment bestowed upon an individual by the university. The Kamangar Family Chair in Biological Sciences — established in 2001 — emphasizes biomedical sciences.

Nobile is widely known for her research into fungal pathogens and how microbes interact with each other to form biofilms — resilient communities of microorganisms. Biofilms can cause severe, persistent and sometimes lethal infections when they settle on medical devices, such as indwelling catheters, heart valves and prosthetics. She is studying Candida auris, which has made headlines in the past few years as hospitals experience outbreaks of drug-resistant strains. She and her lab are also examining Coccidioides species — the species that cause Valley fever, which is endemic to the San Joaquin Valley.

“The Kamangar family’s generous gift will allow Professor Nobile to expand her creative and forward-thinking research program even further,” School of Natural Sciences Dean Betsy Dumont said. “The timing is perfect as the new BSL3 high-containment laboratory will substantially expand the range of experiments that she and her colleagues can undertake.”

“The San Joaquin Valley has been so important to my family, and UC Merced is conducting critical research in making the Valley — indeed, the world — a better place for all of us,” Kamangar said. “Supporting Professor Nobile’s research will improve lives and have a long-lasting impact, and I’m proud to support this important work.”

Nobile earned her Ph.D. with Distinction from Columbia University and worked as a postdoctoral scholar at UCSF. Nobile joined the faculty at UC Merced in the School of Natural Sciences in 2014 and is a member of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and an affiliate of the Health Sciences Research Institute .

Her work will significantly expand with the construction of the new BSL3 high-containment laboratory that’s part of the Merced 2020 Project.

“The San Joaquin Valley has been so important to my family, and UC Merced is conducting critical research in making the Valley — indeed, the world — a better place for all of us. Supporting Professor Nobile’s research will improve lives and have a long-lasting impact, and I’m proud to support this important work.”

Long-time UC Merced supporter Dr. Art Kamangar

Nobile is the campus’s first Pew Biomedical Scholar awardee, an honor given to only about 20 people a year; and the campus’s first recipient of the National Institutes of Health Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) R35 Outstanding Investigator Award.

Nobile also founded the start-up company BioSynesis, Inc. to develop biofilm-specific diagnostics and therapeutics. She has eight patents on her discoveries and is developing the company’s first diagnostic product to detect Candida infections.

The endowed chair will allow her to take additional risks in her research.

“The most creative, riskiest and boldest experiments are often the ones with the highest return in terms of the knowledge gained and the positive impact on society and are also often the most fun and challenging to investigate,” Nobile said. “This chair also has a significant impact on my teaching because my trainees are the ones doing the experiments. They learn that the magic happens by stepping out of their comfort zones, and this is important for their personal and professional growth as scientists.”

Kamangar has been active in the Merced community since he moved here more than 30 years ago. Kamangar and his wife raised two sons and a daughter. He is a founding member and executive officer of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees and has been instrumental in helping provide a research-based education to students from a historically underserved region. He also serves on the Merced Theatre Foundation Board of Directors and spearheaded a campaign to renovate the historic site, known as the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre. The venue this year hosted the UC Merced Children’s Opera thanks to Kamangar’s support.

Lorena Anderson

Senior Writer and Public Information Representative

Office: (209) 228-4406

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