11/17/17 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University’s Winter 2017 Commencement will be held on Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. in Kates Gymnasium inside the Physical Education Center on the Ashland University campus. The speaker for the event will be Steven Benner, professor and distinguished fellow at the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology.
No tickets will be required for the event, which is open to the public. The ceremony will be streamed live at www.ashland.edu and broadcast live in the Student Center Eagles’ Nest and the Student Center Auditorium. Faculty and students who are participating in the ceremony are to assemble at 9:15 a.m. in the Conard Field House located just west of the Physical Education Center.
A light lunch event will be held following the graduation ceremony in Redwood Hall. Each graduate and two members of his or her family will be guests of AU for the luncheon. Those planning to attend the luncheon following commencement should contact Dining and Conference Services at 419-289-5249.
Steven A. Benner has been a professor at Harvard University, ETH Zurich and the University of Florida, where he was the V.T. & Louise Jackson Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. In 2005, he founded The Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology (TWIST) and the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution. Benner also has founded the companies EraGen Biosciences and Firebird BioMolecular Sciences LLC.
Benner and his colleagues were the first to synthesize a gene, beginning the field of synthetic biology. He was instrumental in establishing the field of paleogenetics. He is interested in the origin of life and the chemical conditions and processes needed to produce RNA. Benner has worked with NASA to develop detectors for alien genetic materials, using the definition of life developed by the NASA Exobiology Discipline Working Group in 1992, “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.”
Benner attended Yale University, receiving his B.S. and M.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry in 1976. He then went to Harvard University, receiving his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1979. He worked under the supervision of Robert Burns Woodward, completing his thesis work with Frank Westheimer after Woodward's death. His Ph.D. thesis was “Absolute stereochemistry of acetoacetate decarboxylase, betaine-homocysteine transmethylase, and 3-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase.”
Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2017, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###