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Chemist Pierce Named Howard J. Schaeffer Distinguished Professor

Chemistry professor Joshua Pierce writes on a whiteboard while talking to a student

The College of Sciences has named chemist Joshua Pierce as the Howard J. Schaeffer Distinguished Professor at NC State. The professorship was made possible thanks to a gift from Burroughs Wellcome Company.

Pierce joined the NC State faculty in 2012. His research group focuses on synthesizing complex natural products that may provide the foundation for a new generation of therapeutic agents and tools to study biology. He is also executive director of NC State’s Integrative Sciences Initiative, where he is coordinating the design and realization of the Integrative Sciences Building and leading collaborative efforts to bring together scholars and students from biochemistry, biological sciences, chemistry, physics, engineering and biomedical sciences. In addition, Pierce serves as co-director of NC State’s Comparative Medicine Institute and as director of the Chemistry of Life NIH T32 and Beckman Scholars training programs. 

Pierce has received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, two Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Awards and the Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award, in addition to being named a University Faculty Scholar. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers and given more than 80 invited lectures around the world. In 2018, he founded Synoxa Sciences, which is working to develop small-molecule antibiotics that are effective against multidrug-resistant, life-threatening bacterial infections. 

Pierce completed postdoctoral studies at the Scripps Research Institute before joining NC State. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.

The Schaeffer distinguished professorship, established in 1990, recognizes and honors the late Howard J. Schaeffer, the retired vice president of research, development and medical at Burroughs Wellcome. An internationally recognized scientist and leader in the pharmaceutical industry, he was largely responsible for discovering and developing the anti-herpes agent acyclovir. Schaeffer distinguished himself through his research and executive accomplishments and his service to NC State.