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Dr. Philip Bevilacqua Named Distinguished Professor at Penn State

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Phil Bevilacqua

Dr. Philip Bevilacqua has been selected to receive the title of Distinguished Professor.  He washonored with the title in recognition of his exceptional record of teaching, research, and service to the University community. The honor is designated by the Office of the President of Penn State based on the recommendations of colleagues and the Dean of the Eberly College of Science.

Bevilacqua, a Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, focuses his research on attaining a molecular-level understanding of RNA, a macromolecule essential for all known forms of life that, among other functions, carries the genetic code for synthesizing proteins. Using techniques from molecular biology, chemistry, and physics, his lab studies how RNA folds into diverse structures and the functions that result from this diversity. Specifically, they investigate how RNA can act as an enzyme, how RNA folds In Vivo, and how RNA may have played a role in the emergence of life on Earth.

Bevilacqua’s focus is always on the training of his students and postdocs. To date, he has had 23 Ph.D.’s graduate from his lab and worked alongside many postdocs and undergraduate researchers. A main point of pride for Bevilacqua is the diversity of his research group.  The group is represented by graduate students from BMB, Chemistry, Plant Biology, and The Huck Institute of Life Sciences and Bioinformatics and Genomics.

“Striking a balance between research and teaching is very important to me. I feel that my research makes me be able to be a better teacher, but also that the teaching and the principles that I’ve learned have made me a better researcher,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua's commitment to teaching and research have been honored with the C.I. Noll Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Penn State Eberly College of Science Alumni Society in 2012, the Faculty Scholar Medal in Physical Sciences by Penn State in 2010, and a CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation in 2000. He was named a Tombros Education Fellow by the Penn State Center for Excellence in Science Education in 2015, and was a Penn State Schreyer Honors College Distinguished Honors Faculty Fellow from 2010 to 2012, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar from 2001 to 2006, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow from 2001 to 2003. Bevilacqua has taught courses to a diverse range of students ranging from freshmen level to graduate level.

Bevilacqua is an elected Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has been a member of the editorial board for the scientific journal RNA since 2004 and has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular Biology since 2014. His research group has published scientific papers in journals such as Biochemistry, the Journal of the American Chemical SocietyNatureNature Chemical Biology, and Science.

Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 1997, Bevilacqua was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder. He earned a doctoral degree at the University of Rochester in 1993 and a bachelor's degree at John Carroll University in 1987.

When asked why he chose to come to Penn State to begin his career he said, “It felt like home.”  Penn State made him feel like he could conduct his research and be comfortable.  He credits the school with great colleagues and students and for being a great place to raise his family.  He works especially closely with the Assmann lab in Biology, Keating lab in Chemistry, and Babitzke lab in BMB.

Bevilacqua’s wife, Joanne, also has a Ph.D in Chemistry.  She later went on to receive her Master’s in Education from Penn State and now teaches Chemistry at a local high school.  He and his wife have three daughters: Sarah, Erin and Chloe.  Sarah, the oldest, is a graduate of Penn State and is now attending Cal Tech as a graduate student in Chemistry.  Erin is a sophomore at Penn State majoring in Mathematics, and Chloe is currently a junior at State College High School.