PULLMAN, Wash.–James Krueger, the newly appointed professor and chair of Washington State University’s Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology, has been awarded a seven-year, Senator Jacob Javits Award in Neurosciences to be valued at nearly $2 million.
The award comes from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Established by Congress in 1983, Javits awards provide uninterrupted funding for recipients demonstrating “exceptional scientific excellence and productivity, proposals of the highest scientific merit, and are judged likely to remain on the cutting edge of science for the next seven years.”
The focus of Krueger’s research is the important role of sleep as a fundamental part of neurobiology. Krueger and colleagues were the first in the world to describe the relationship of sleep in the infection process. They have identified a variety of neurochemicals produced by the body that induce sleep. Currently the group is studying these compounds, their role in the regulation of sleep and its relationship to the immune system. Future work will involve examining the role of viruses and their pathogenicity to the central nervous system as it relates to the neurobiology of sleep.
“Of course we’re pleased to have received a Javits Award,” said Krueger, who became department chair in July. “In the simplest terms this means financial stability, and at the same time,” he quipped, “this means I’ve essentially paid for my position here at WSU for a while.”
Krueger is an internationally renowned neurobiologist with more than 350 scientific publications and abstracts. Coming to WSU from the University of Tennessee, he brought more than $1.17 million in grant funding and eight research colleagues, including a visiting professor from Hungary, to the Pullman campus. Krueger’s research group is composed of five members holding M.D. degrees and two holding both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. Two Ph.D. candidates will join the group for a short time to complete their studies this fall.
“We were extremely fortunate to have Dr. Krueger join the faculty of WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine,” said Dean Borje Gustafsson. “He is a researcher of the highest quality joining a department that already has an outstanding reputation in neurosciences worldwide. He presents the unique combination of being an excellent researcher and an academic administrative leader.”
Krueger echoed Gustafsson’s compliments of the existing faculty when asked why he chose to come to WSU. “I was offered other positions simultaneously elsewhere that offered a lot more money,” he said. “But WSU’s neurobiology faculty are very high quality individuals and well recognized in the field. Also during the entire interview process, I never heard a single complaint about any of the staff members here either. At the other places I would have had to revamp whole departments from the ground up, including making some significant personnel changes. For me, WSU was a complete package that was already functioning well that I could step into and continue my work.”
The Krueger family has a summer home in Montana that also added a bit of geographic push to come to WSU. Like many others, Krueger admits the Palouse lifestyle was a factor, too.
Because of his scientific reputation, Krueger is regularly sought out by the press to offer comments as an expert on the neurobiology of sleep and its relationship to health and well-being.
This is the veterinary college department’s second Javits award. In 1990, Professor Robert Ritter received a seven-year award worth more than $630,000 to continue his studies of the neuronal and hormonal communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system as they relate to control of eating behavior.
The awards honor the late Sen. Javits (R-NY), who for several years was a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disorder known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.