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Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture

In 1990 chemist Glenn Edgar Ullyot endowed a public lecture with the Philadelphia Section of the American Chemical Society. The goal: that this annual lecture would inform the audience of how chemistry, biology, and the sciences in general contribute to the public welfare.

In the years since, esteemed scientists, journalists, government and business leaders, and even Nobel laureates have addressed audiences at this popular lecture. It is presented jointly by the Science History Institute (where the lecture has been held since 1997), the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of the Sciences, and the Philadelphia Section and Delaware Section of the American Chemical Society.

The Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture featuring Peter Agre will be presented on September 30, 2021.


Peter Agre headshot

Peter Agre.

Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University

Peter Agre, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and the director of the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins University, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2003 for the discovery of aquaporin water channels.

His love of biomedical research began while working on cholera as a student in the laboratories at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. After his residency and a fellowship he returned to Johns Hopkins, eventually joining the School of Medicine faculty in 1984, where he rose to the rank of professor of biological chemistry and of medicine.

Agre is best known for the discovery of aquaporin water channels—the family of membrane proteins often referred to as the “plumbing system of cells.” Aquaporins are found in all living organisms. Thirteen different aquaporin genes are present in the human genome, and aquaporins have been characterized for roles in tubule water reabsorption in the kidney, generation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, release of sweat from skin, and secretion of tears and aqueous humor in the eye. Aquaporin malfunctions can result in dehydration, dry eye, hyperthermia, inanition, brain edema, and other serious clinical disorders. Agre now focuses his attention on combating malaria in the laboratory and in the field, where as principal investigator of the NIH-funded International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research, he oversees efforts in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Agre is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, for which he chaired the Committee on Human Rights. From 2009 to 2011 Agre served as president and chair of the Board of Advisors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Among many awards Agre has received are the 1999 Homer Smith Award from the American Society of Nephrology and the 2005 Karl Landsteiner Award from the American Association of Blood Banks. He has 16 honorary doctorates from universities around the world.

Agre received a BA in chemistry from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and an MD from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an oncology fellowship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Previous Ullyot Public Affairs Lecturers

The Ullyot Lecture has presented since 1990, jointly with the Institute since 1997. Lecturers that have presented at the Institute are

About the Sponsors

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania is composed of a dynamic community of researchers creating and disseminating new knowledge at the forefront of the chemical sciences. As an enabling science, chemistry is at the focal point of every important modern societal challenge. Our faculty and students engage these challenges daily on a local, national, and international scale.

The Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania uses the tools of the humanities and social sciences to study science, technology, medicine, and the environment. Through a broad range of scholarly projects, faculty research examines relations between the technical practice of scientists, engineers, medical researchers, and clinicians and the material, social, political, and cultural context in which those practices occur. Interdisciplinary study, faculty-student interaction, and individual mentoring characterize both the graduate and undergraduate programs.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of the Sciences is the home of the chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmaceutical chemistry majors, and the chemistry, biochemistry, and bioinformatics minors. With expertise distributed over all five of chemistry’s primary areas, the faculty engage in diverse, award-winning teaching and research activities that prepare students for such future opportunities as employment in industry, science teaching, and postgraduate training in graduate schools, medical school, and law school.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals, and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. The Philadelphia Section and Delaware Section are cosponsors of the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture.