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Vahe Bandarian receives Distinguished Research Award

Bandarian PortraitEach year since 1965, the University of Utah has selected faculty members from across campus to receive the Distinguished Research Award (DRA) – an award designed to recognize outstanding achievement and excellence in scholarly and creative research by University of Utah faculty. Nominees for this prestigious award are evaluated on the impact and significance of their career research, scholarly contributions, and creative endeavors within their respective fields, as well as their commitment to improving and enriching the human condition for our local, national, and global communities.

The 2020-2021 academic year presented unusual challenges for the entire University of Utah community. Faculty at the University of Utah continued to persevere through the many unexpected circumstances presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 DRA recipients exemplify this dedication and achievement on behalf of the University. The University Research Committee (URC) received more than triple the number of nominations in the 2020-2021 DRA cycle than the program typically receives.

 “Although each of the submitted nominations represented a highly-accomplished faculty member, six of the nominated faculty most clearly personified the criteria for this award through the impact their work has had on their respective fields, and their commitment to enriching the human condition,” said Joanne Yaffe, Chair of the University Research Committee (URC). “We recommended an unusually large number of awards this year, but the URC increased their recommendations based on the excellence of the selected faculty.”

DRA recipients will receive special recognition during the 2021 General Commencement, and a $10,000 grant to pursue creative and/or scholarly research endeavors of their choosing. We hope our University of Utah research community will join us in wishing our 2021 DRA recipients our sincerest congratulations on this exceptional achievement!


Vahe Bandarian is a full professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah, where he also serves as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education.  His research interests are in discovering new natural products and elucidating the molecular-level mechanisms of the challenging enzymatic transformations that produce them in the cell. Specifically, his lab has reconstituted the key steps in the biosynthesis of the modified transfer RNA base, queuosine, which is found in all kingdoms of life. Future directions in this area will include probing the biological role of this and other ubiquitous RNA modification. Additional new areas of research being initiated will focus on mechanistic studies of enzymes involved in complex radical-mediated transformations.

Last Updated: 6/3/21