Noted Scientist Holden Thorp Joins Chemistry Faculty

A leading chemistry scholar, AAAS Fellow and former provost at Washington University, Thorp will be a CCAS chemistry professor.

June 5, 2023

Holden Thorp

Holden Thorp will join the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences faculty as a professor of chemistry. (Photo courtesy Science/AAAS)

Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of the “Science” family of journals who served as provost at Washington University in St. Louis and chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), will join George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) Department of Chemistry.

A leading scientist and academic and a Fellow with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Thorp’s appointment as professor of chemistry will begin this fall.

“Dr. Thorp is a distinguished scholar who has made pioneering contributions to the field of chemistry and contributed very significantly to the education of undergraduates and graduate students,” said GW President Mark S. Wrighton, a colleague of Thorp’s at Washington University. “He has broad interests from science and medicine to art and music. He is an entrepreneur and has been associated with bringing scientific discovery to benefit society. I am delighted that our students and faculty will have the opportunity to collaborate with such an esteemed professor and researcher.”

Thorp said he is eager to work with GW students, noting that they have impressed him at chemistry seminars and lectures—and on a few occasions when he’s joined GW Theatre Department performances as a bass guitarist. “The attention and inspiration [students] receive from the GW faculty is outstanding,” Thorp said. “It’s an honor to join my faculty colleagues in continuing the special GW tradition.”

In addition to serving as Washington University provost from 2013-2019, Thorp was the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor and held appointments in both chemistry and medicine.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Thorp will become a member of our CCAS faculty,” said CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck. “His hire represents a significant step forward for sciences in the Columbian College—and chemistry, in particular—as we achieve our aspiration of preeminence as a comprehensive research university.”

Thorp joined Washington University after spending three decades at UNC, where he served as the university’s 10th chancellor from 2008-2013. A North Carolina native, Thorp started at UNC as an undergraduate student and earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 1986. He earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1989 at the California Institute of Technology and completed his postdoctoral work at Yale University. He is also is a Fellow with the National Academy of Inventors.

In his research career, Thorp has been a leader in numerous fields such as electron-transfer reactions of nucleic acids. He has developed technology for electronic DNA chips and cofounded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, which developed the FDA-approved fungal infection drug VIVJOA. He is on the board of trustees of St. Louis University and a member of the board of directors of PBS, the College Advising Corps and Artizan Biosciences.

Thorp coauthored two highly regarded books on higher education: “Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership Between America and its Colleges and Universities” (2018) and  “Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-First Century” (2010), both published by the University of North Carolina Press.

“This is such a great thing for the Chemistry Department and GW,” said Chemistry Department Chair Christopher Cahill. “We are looking forward not only to learning from Holden’s extensive scientific and leadership experience, but also to engaging his broader network of scientists, publishers and policy professionals to help highlight our faculty, and to tackle some tough societal problems.”