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UM Researcher Earns Title of Regents Professor

University of Montana Professor Richard Bridges joined an elite group Friday, Nov. 18, when the state Board of Regents unanimously voted to name him Regents Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Regents Professor is the top rank awarded to faculty members in the Montana University System. Bridges is only the ninth UM professor to earn the title since the policy of naming Regents Professors started in 1991.

“This is really a tremendous honor considering not only the many accomplishments of the other Regents Professors, but also all the high-quality faculty in our programs and centers who I have the pleasure of working with every day,” Bridges said. “What means the most to me is that this appointment recognizes that teaching and research are essentially inseparable and that the two must be increasingly combined to properly prepare our students to compete and succeed.”

Regents Professors must demonstrate unusual excellence in instruction, scholarship and service, as well as distinctive impact through their work. The rank is awarded by the Board of Regents upon the recommendation of the University president.

“Professor Bridges joins the ranks of individuals who exemplify the spirit of the faculty at UM,” President Royce C. Engstrom said. “We are proud to recognize him not just for his outstanding accomplishments, but his distinction as a University citizen.”

Bridges has chaired UM’s Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences since 2008. That department is part of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy in UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences.

“Professor Bridges really deserves this honor because he is an outstanding researcher,” said Dave Forbes, dean of the college. “He also uses his excellent problem-solving skills to deftly communicate complex biomedical concepts to the school’s health professional students using innovative computer technology.”

Bridges completed his undergraduate work in biochemistry at the University of California, Davis, and received his doctorate in biochemistry from Cornell Medical College in 1984. Following postdoctoral and faculty positions at the University of California, Irvine, he joined UM as an associate professor in 1993. He was promoted to full professor in 1998.

Bridges founded and for eight years directed UM’s Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience, which is a National Institutes of Health Center for Biomedical Research Excellence. He now chairs the Montana Neuroscience Institute and was a founding member of the Montana BioScience Alliance and the Montana Neuroscience Institute.

Research in the Bridges group focuses on the neurochemistry of membrane transport proteins that regulate the movement of the signaling molecules into and out of cells within the nervous system.

Using chemically synthesized drugs, Bridges and his associates probe the pharmacological specificity and physiological roles of these transporters in the brain and spinal cord. Emerging evidence suggests that these systems, as well as the novel drugs that regulate their activities, are relevant to a wide variety of central nervous system diseases and insults, including Lou Gehrig’s disease, traumatic injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, viral infection and drug addiction.