Hans Thewissen Named Distinguished University Professor

It doesn’t happen often.

In fact, it has only happened twice in the nearly 50 years of NEOMED’s history.

So, take a minute to congratulate J.G.M. (“Hans”) Thewissen, Ph.D., Ingalls-Brown Professor of Anatomy:  At Commencement May 6, President Langell recognized his promotion to Distinguished University Professor, as recently approved by the Board of Trustees.

Receiving the promotion, Dr. Thewissen said recently, “means to me that there’s a recognition at the University that our faculty members need to be well-rounded in teaching, research and service – but also that there’s a broad-minded interpretation of what those fields can be. There’s recognition that all of them contribute to the rich fabric of academic life that a mature university should have.”

Dr. Thewissen answered a few questions to let us get to know him a little better on this special occasion.

Home: Kent, Ohio. Happily married for more than 25 years to a science journalist, with one son who went into finance in New York City. (Not sure where he got that!)

Favorite place to be when not at NEOMED: That changes every few years. Currently, it’s Bering Glacier in Alaska.

Classes he currently teaches: Gross anatomy, embryology and some histology in several first- year medical classes

Career highlight: Seeing young people whom I trained find their wings and become confident scientists and doctors

Education: Ph.D. in paleontology from the University of Michigan; B.S. equivalent in biology and geology and M.S. equivalent in biology from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

Years at NEOMED: Became an assistant professor in 1993

Advice to students: Follow your bold ideas. That’s what allows a level of creativity that will advance science and medicine. Progress is slow, and can be frustrating, so hang in there.

A dinosaur skeleton with a santa's hat on its head.Did you know?
The skeleton hanging in the corridor outside Dr. Chiang’s office on campus is a replica of a discovery made by Dr. Thewissen in Pakistan. It inspired the NEOMED mascot known as Nate the Walking Whale, which every winter is bedecked in a red Santa Claus hat.

About the title
The title Distinguished University Professor is the highest rank that a professor can achieve. In being so honored, Dr. Thewissen joins John Chiang, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor and a professor of biochemistry and molecular pathology in the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences.

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