Skip to main content

Biomolecular chemistry professor awarded inaugural Hanns Kuttner Professorship

May 4, 2023 By Will Cushman

 University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry Peter Lewis has received the inaugural award for the newly established Hanns Kuttner Professorship.  

This professorship fund, named for Chancellor Emerita Rebecca Blank’s husband, was established in conjunction with a separate award fund named for the former leader of UW–Madison. These two distinct awards honor the leadership and service of Blank and Kuttner.

A headshot of

Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry Peter Lewis has been named the inaugural Hanns Kuttner Professor.

“These two new professorships are designed to recognize outstanding faculty with stellar research and teaching records and a commitment to service who have received tenure in the last four years,” says Provost John Karl Scholz. “Professor Lewis is clearly an exceptional scholar, teacher and colleague, and I’m thrilled that he will be the first Hanns Kuttner Professor.” 

Lewis is a trailblazer in advancing understanding of the connections between gene expression and cancer. He completed his PhD in 2006 at the University of California, Berkeley before joining Rockefeller University in New York as a postdoctoral researcher studying epigenetics and the biology of chromatin, the genetic material that forms chromosomes. He joined the UW–Madison Department of Biomolecular Chemistry in 2013 as an assistant professor and was granted tenure in 2019.   

“Receiving the inaugural Hanns Kuttner Professorship has brought me both joy and a humbling sense of gratitude,” Lewis says. “I am thankful for this honor and remain committed to upholding the values and ideals of service and leadership that Hanns Kuttner and Chancellor Blank exemplified at UW–Madison.”  

Lewis’s pioneering research journey began with a fascination for the proteins and processes that govern the structure of chromatin, and how they impact gene expression and cell differentiation. These same proteins and processes were subsequently revealed to play pivotal roles in the development of some solid and blood cancers, and Lewis’s research has evolved to also address disease-specific questions.   

Since arriving at UW–Madison, Lewis has received a number of awards to support his research, including a Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Award and the prestigious Pew Scholar Award. 

In addition to his research, Lewis is a dedicated instructor and mentor in his department and an active contributor to the campus community. He has guided dozens of undergraduate and graduate students in their pursuit of biochemical and genetic research and provided leadership for the university’s integrated graduate program in biochemistry.  

“Dr. Lewis has proven himself to be highly creative and insightful in the pursuit of fundamental gene expression mechanisms,” says Patricia Kiley, professor and chair of the Biomolecular Chemistry Department. “His innovative and impactful research program has proven to be paradigm-shifting, and we look forward to more exciting advances in the future.”