Skip to main content

Christopher Wright honored with 2022 Viktor Hamburger Outstanding Educator Prize

By Emily Overway

Headshot of Christopher Wright. He's wearing eyeglasses and a gray jacket.
Christopher Wright

Christopher Wright, professor of cell and developmental biology who holds the Louise B. McGavock Chair, has been honored with the 2022 Viktor Hamburger Outstanding Educator Prize. The award, presented by the Society for Developmental Biology, recognizes outstanding and innovative contributions to teaching and learning. Wright was nominated by a former postdoctoral trainee, Maureen Gannon, now a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt.

Since joining the department in 1990, Wright and his lab members have used multiple model organisms to investigate the embryonic development of complex organ systems. The research can shed light on human congenital birth defects and disease susceptibility. Wright also runs a successful NIH T32 training grant (on stem cell and regenerative developmental biology) and directs the related Program in Developmental Biology.

As a mentor Wright strives to create an environment where students can appreciate the magic of biology and science as a whole. He said he has “an overwhelming enthusiasm for any and every type of science and tries to deliver that enthusiasm to others.” While Wright has honed his mentorship style throughout his career, he is still adapting and learning, making sure to take advantage of all mentorship opportunities offered, such as the Culturally Aware Mentorship workshops. “I always say yes to opportunities,” Wright said, “particularly if they help train junior scientists or improve the training environment.”

Ian Macara, chair of cell and developmental biology, was “delighted” to hear that Wright recently won this award. “He puts enormous effort and devotes many hours to individual support of the trainees and their research projects. As if this were not enough, he also strongly supports junior faculty in my department, sitting on their mentoring committees and helping them navigate the complexities of preparing their tenure documents,” Macara said. “Many, many students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty owe their successes to Chris Wright’s tireless support and encouragement. This prestigious award is well deserved and long overdue.”

The outstanding educator prize is named after Viktor Hamburger, a pioneer in embryology and developmental neurology, who spent nearly 50 years as a professor in the Department of Zoology at Washington University. During his career Hamburger was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the National Medal of Science.

To celebrate, Wright will present an award lecture at the Joint Society for Developmental Biology-Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology Meeting in July 2022.