Two distinguished faculty members receive named professorships

Brown, Jacobson to be invested on Thursday, September 13


 Two UMass Medical School professors have been awarded named professorships, designations that honor distinguished faculty members while reflecting the dedication of donors to advance scientific inquiry and improve health. Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, chair and professor of neurology, is now the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, and Allan S. Jacobson, PhD, chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems, holds the Gerald L. Haidak and Zelda S. Haidak Distinguished Professorship in Cell Biology.

Drs. Brown and Jacobson will be officially invested on Thursday, Sept. 13, immediately following Chancellor Michael Collins’ Convocation address at 4 p.m. The generous donors who made these named professorships possible will also be recognized for their essential support of UMMS and its mission.

Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD

The LaChance Chair was established in 2008, the same year Leo LaChance died. It supports a senior physician or researcher overseeing or conducting research in neurology, mental retardation or mental illness. Brown, co-director of the Neurotherapeutics Institute, is a physician-scientist committed to understanding and treating the root causes of neurodegenerative diseases.

Brown is the leading expert on the cause and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and is dedicated to finding a cure. Since joining UMMS from Harvard Medical School, he has focused on RNA interference and gene-based therapies for familial cases of ALS due to mutations in SOD1, a gene whose causal association with ALS he first discovered.

Brown is treating former Gov. Paul Cellucci, who is battling ALS while leading a campaign to raise money for the UMass ALS Champion Fund to support ALS research at UMMS.

The Gerald L. Haidak and Zelda S. Haidak Distinguished Professorship in Cell Biology was established in 1998 to memorialize the late Gerald Haidak, MD, professor of surgery and cell biology and associate dean for special projects at UMMS. Since its founding, the professorship was held by former cell biology chair Gary Stein, PhD, who recently left UMMS to direct the Vermont Cancer Center.


Allan Jacobson, PhD

Jacobson, who joined UMMS in 1973, served as chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology starting in 1994, assuming leadership of the new Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems when it was created in 2011 by merging the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and the Department of Physiology.

Jacobson is recognized as a world leader in the study of messenger RNA (mRNA) decay. His work addresses one of the key overlap areas between cell biology and molecular biology, namely how mRNAs undergo “quality control” as they traffic from the nucleus to the cytosol or rough endoplasmic reticulum for translation on ribosomes. His pioneering work on the mechanisms of “non-sense mediated decay” made this critical tie and explained a previously mysterious phenomenon: why mRNA levels as well as protein levels decrease when stop mutations occur in genes.

UMass Medical School currently has 32 named professorships that increase the institution’s ability to attract and retain individuals distinguished in their fields. Named professorships also provide an opportunity for donors to contribute to the enrichment and vitality of the academic and scientific environment.

All members of the UMMS community are invited to attend Investiture and all other Convocation events. For details, visit