Franklin News - Feature Story

Feature Story

UGA names first UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in the Biological Sciences

Monday, November 8, 2010

Phil Williams


Athens, Ga.  – Rick Tarleton, distinguished research professor of cellular biology at the University of Georgia, has been named the first UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in the Biological Sciences. The professorship is funded by the University of Georgia Athletic Association.

“We are delighted that such a distinguished member of our faculty as Rick Tarleton now holds this prestigious professorship,” said Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin College. “His work consistently draws international attention and brings honor to himself, the college and to the university.”

Tarleton, who has been a member of the faculty at UGA since 1984, was founding director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and has been a distinguished research professor since 2000.

“It is certainly an honor to have the recognition,” said Tarleton. “The endowment that comes with the chair has an immeasurable value because it provides the flexibility to try out novel ideas and projects that may be unfundable through the normal channels. The Burroughs Wellcome Scholar Award that I received earlier in my career was similar and taught me the value of having some unrestricted seed funds that can spawn large, successful and high-impact projects. I am especially appreciative of the UGA Athletic Association for giving back to the university in this way.”

Tarleton earned his bachelor’s degree in biology degree from Wake Forest in 1978 and his master’s in microbiology from Texas A&M in 1980. He then received his Ph.D. from Wake Forest University in 1983, continuing research on tropical diseases and infections that he began as an undergraduate. 

He came to UGA as an assistant professor in what was then the department of zoology. He was promoted to associate professor in 1989 and full professor in 1995.

In addition to being a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholar in Molecular Parasitology (1995-2000), he has been a member of the Wake Forest University Board of Visitors (1996-2004) and the NIH Tropical Medicine and Parasitology Study Section (1996-2000).

He served as director for the National Institutes of Health Tropical Disease Research Unit on Vaccine Development for Chagas Disease (1998-2003) and is founder and president of the Chagas Disease Foundation (2008-present). 

Tarleton has published more than 100 peer-reviewed studies. Research in the Tarleton laboratory focuses on the immunology and pathogenesis of Trypanosoma cruzi infection and the resulting disease syndrome known as Chagas disease. T. cruzi is a protozoan parasite that infects approximately 18 million people in Latin American with 90 million more at risk of infection.

Chagas disease is the most common cause of congestive heart failure-induced sudden death in the world and the leading cause of death among young-to-middle age adults in endemic areas of South America. T. cruzi infection is also a risk to people and animals in the U.S. where nearly 300,000 individuals are estimated to be infected.  There are no vaccines for prevention of T. cruzi infection, and current chemotherapeutic regimens are of limited efficacy.

His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.  

For more information contact Rick Tarleton, 706-542-3362,


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Phil Williams