Chemist Williams Named LORD Corporation Distinguished Scholar

The College of Sciences has named Gavin Williams, associate head of the Department of Chemistry, as the Thomas Lord, LORD Corporation Distinguished Scholar at NC State, effective May 3. The distinguished professorship was made possible thanks to a gift from LORD Corporation.

Williams is a decorated chemist who joined the NC State faculty in 2009. He uses microbes as factories toward the development of potent, more effective antibiotics. He is well-known for his innovative work in polyketide biosynthesis, the development of enzymatic tools for protein engineering, and the development of novel biosensors to guide metabolic engineering and high-throughput synthetic biology.

“Gifts from generous donors like LORD Corporation help us honor outstanding faculty,” said Chris McGahan, dean of the College of Sciences. “We are excited for Gavin and look forward to seeing more of his important contributions in synthetic biology and drug development.”

“LORD’s founder, Hugh Lord, had a deep dedication to the collaboration between academia and industry,” said Seth Carruthers, director of LORD Chemical Technology. “The connection between education and innovation continues across LORD Corporation today. We are proud to support the NC State Department of Chemistry and all the extraordinary things it does for the future of science.”

In 2018, Williams founded a startup company, Omega Organisms, that is developing a commercialization pathway for an innovative microbial platform for manufacturing terpenes, a type of organic hydrocarbon, to improve human health and sustainability. In addition to his research, he is responsible for the management of the Biological Core Instrumentation Facility in Dabney Hall, which is used by dozens of faculty and students across campus. He also developed the university’s first course in chemical biology.

Williams has been recognized for his work with the National Science Foundation Early Career Faculty Development (CAREER) Award, one of the agency’s top awards for young scientists. At NC State, he has been named a University Faculty Scholar and received a Chancellor’s Innovation Award and the Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award. He has also received two prestigious R01 research project grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Williams received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He received his Ph.D. in bioorganic chemistry and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Leeds in England. He also completed postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The LORD Corporation endowments were established in the College of Sciences by LORD Corporation, a diversified technology and manufacturing company headquartered in Cary, N.C. The Thomas Lord endowment is named for the son of the company’s founder, Hugh C. Lord, to recognize outstanding scholarship and leadership in teaching and research.

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