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Professor Philip Jen Lauded at Retirement Reception

Sept. 6, 2013

Dr. Philip Jen

Professor Philip Jen, who studies the neurophysiology of hearing and echolocation in bats, retires this month after 38 years of teaching and research at MU.

More than 75 MU Division of Biological Sciences faculty, students, alumni, and staff attended a reception at MU’s Memorial Union on September 4 to honor beloved Professor Philip Jen, who retired this month after 38 years of teaching and research.

Jen, who joined the Division in 1975, was the first neurobiologist faculty member hired in the Division and was promoted to full professor by 1985.

Through the years, Jen has taught thousands of undergraduates in courses ranging from neurobiology to practical electronics. He has personally mentored 11 master’s degree students, 16 doctoral degree students, and 26 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists. In 1995, the Arts and Science Student Council awarded Jen the Purple Chalk Award for Teaching.

Jen’s use of bats to study how a mammal’s brain processes sound earned him the local name of “The Batman” as well as an international reputation in the area of neurophysiology of hearing. His many honors include receipt of MU’s Byler Distinguished Professor Award in 1988 and election as a Fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001.

Drs. Ted Tarkow, Anand Chandrasekhar, Stephen Alexander, Philip Jen, Bing Zhang

Drs. Ted Tarkow, Anand Chandrasekhar, Stephen Alexander, Philip Jen, Bing Zhang

Stephen Alexander, professor of biological sciences, was one of several speakers who lauded Jen at the reception.

“Phil is light hearted and fun to be with. At work, he is focused on excellence. His quest for excellent science is immutable,” said Alexander. “We in the Division of Biological Sciences owe a lot to Phil’s fine example of unrelenting hard work, excellent scholarship and leadership over the past 38 years.”

Professor Andrew McClellan, who directs the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program for the State of Missouri, hailed Jen’s central role in building the Division’s neurobiology program and in founding MU’s Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program in 2001.

“Phil is the founding member of the DBS neurobiology group and was a major force, mostly directly but also indirectly, in hiring virtually every neurobiologist in DBS. At present, we now have ~12 neurobiology faculty,” said McClellan. “The fact that we have a vibrant, cohesive group of neurobiology faculty is due, in large part, to the efforts of Phil Jen.”

Graduate students with Dr. Philip and Betty Jen

Graduate students pose with their “super heroes,” Dr. Philip and Betty Jen

Throughout his career, Jen has inspired many young students to pursue studies in neurobiology. Recently, Jen and his wife, Betty, established the “Dr. Philip and Betty Jen Neuroscience Student Travel Award Fund,” which provides travel support to eligible neuroscience graduate students in the Division of Biological Sciences to attend professional meetings and conferences.

To commemorate Jen’s contributions, the Division presented Jen with a plaque and also announced the establishment of the “Philip H.-S. Jen Lecture in Neurocircuits and Behavior.” Professor Troy Zars, who made the announcement on behalf of the Division, said that, like Jen, the lecture will be “an integral part of the Division’s training program in a multi-investigator group that focuses on the neural basis of behavior.”

Dr. John Walker presents Dr. Philip Jen with plaque honoring his 38 years with the Division.

Dr. John Walker presents Dr. Philip Jen with plaque honoring his 38 years with the Division.

“To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, old professors never die, they just fade away,” joked Jen later. “I have really had a gratifying, fulfilling career.”



Written by: Melody Kroll

Related research strengths:
Behavior, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology
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