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NC State News

A Passion for Education

In May, Todd Klaenhammer was named the recipient of the O. Max Gardner Award, given annually to the UNC system professor who has made the “greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.”

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the quality of Klaenhammer’s work in the lab is above comparison – rivaled only by the passion he displays in educating students in NC State’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.

“Todd Klaenhammer is a collaborator and an innovator in his field – not confining his research to his department at NC State, but sharing it broadly,” NC State chancellor James. L. Oblinger said. “At the same time, he is a masterful teacher and mentor to his undergraduate and graduate students, exuding enthusiasm for his subject.

“Todd is someone who reflects very well on NC State, and we are very proud of him.”

Klaenhammer’s students echo Oblinger’s sentiments.

“He is truly unique,” said Erika Pfeiler, a fifth-year Ph.D. functional genomics student who studied at the University of Tennessee before coming to NC State specifically to work with Klaenhammer. “Dr. Klaenhammer’s always open to taking on students in his lab who may not know everything about genomics or biotechnology, for example, but who are willing to learn and work hard for him.

“Where a lot of professors might say that they can’t hire you because you lack the experience they want,” she continued, “Todd is really good about seeing the potential in students and helping them work toward building their skill set and applying it toward what we do in the lab.”

Klaenhammer is the ninth NC State faculty member to win the O. Max Gardner Award in the past 14 years. A Minnesota native, Klaenhammer came to NC State as an assistant professor in 1978 and was promoted to associate professor in 1983 and full professor in 1988.

He was named William Neal Reynolds Professor in 1992, Alumni Distinguished Professor in 1993 and Distinguished University Professor in 2002.

“Dr. Klaenhammer is dedicated and passionate about his work on probiotics,” said Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of NC State’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. “He inspires his students and staff to exceed their own expectations for excellence.”

In a world where the interdisciplinary nature of science becomes increasingly apparent – during her five years on campus, Pfeiler has collaborated with an array of colleagues from several NC State colleges – Klaenhammer’s expertise and passion offer his eager, tenacious students the opportunity to turn imagination into scientific discovery.

“Working with Todd – who has so many connections across campus – has been a really rewarding experience,” Pfeiler said. “He engages his students in the classroom and wants them to make their own hypotheses and come to their own conclusions.

“You can’t help but get into it.”