CHAPEL HILL, NC—Ben A. Bahr, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, received the James E. Holshouser, Jr., Award for Excellence in Public Service today from the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina.

The award, presented during the Board’s regular November meeting, was established in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward distinguished public service and outreach by faculty across the University.  The award was recently renamed in honor and memory of Holshouser, who was governor of North Carolina from 1973-77 and served on the University’s Board of Governors for more than three decades.  The 2013 award carries a $7,500 cash prize and was presented by UNC President Tom Ross and Public Service Award Committee members Raiford Trask and Dick Taylor.

An internationally recognized expert on age-related neuro-degenerative disorders, Bahr was recruited to UNC Pembroke in 2009, where he continues to conduct cutting-edge research on Alzheimer’s Disease and other brain disorders.  While UNCP is known primarily as a teaching institution, Bahr’s work has enabled undergraduate students there to participate in groundbreaking research that has global implications for improving health and quality of life.

By first identifying the pathways through which brain cells eliminate destructive proteins, Bahr has been able to create ways to accelerate that process.  Research shows that removing these proteins improves cognition and memory in laboratory animals, potentially improving the long-term outlook for people suffering from or at risk for Alzheimer’s and related disorders.  Bahr has since identified a drug compound that could slow or even reverse the course of the disease, and last year filed UNCP’s first patent application.

An equally gifted teacher, Bahr is absolutely passionate about mentoring undergraduate students and helping them gain the skills and experience necessary to gain admission to graduate school.  He routinely involves UNCP undergraduates in his research on brain activity and pathology, and currently has more than a dozen conducting independent research in his laboratory.  Many of his former students are now advancing to teaching and biomedical research careers of their own.  This commitment to hands-on teaching recently earned him the Outstanding Mentor Award from the Council for Undergraduate Research.

Bahr has also become an important ambassador for UNC Pembroke, with frequent speaking engagements to civic groups, local schools, community colleges, and science-related organizations.  Through such outreach, he works hard to bring the brain and its disorders to an understandable level for every type of audience, and to educate the community about the importance of Alzheimer’s research and other areas of medical research.   In addition to raising public awareness of the disease and recent advances, he also regularly consults with local Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Bahr holds undergraduate degrees in molecular biology and biochemistry, along with a doctorate in chemistry, from the University of California-Santa Barbara.  He also completed postdoctoral work at the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California-Irvine.