ALONG THE WAY: David Dix

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Richard K. Wilson, a Kent native who heads the Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, was recently named one of "The Hottest Scientific Researchers of 2012," by "Sciencewatch," a division of Thomson Reuters one of the world's leading sources of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.

The award recognizes those whose research is most frequently cited during a period of a year. To qualify, the research must have been published within two years of the recognition by Sciencewatch and must be cited at a level notably about papers of comparable type and age.

With 15 so-called "hot" papers to his name, Wilson heads the list.

A member of Theodore Roosevelt High School's Class of 1977, he majored in microbiology at Miami University in Oxford and obtained his doctorate chemistry and biochemistry in 1986 at the University of Oklahoma. At the Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, he was a breakthrough researcher in mapping out the human genome and was one of the scientists invited to the White House by President Bill Clinton to celebrate the accomplishment.

His father, Richard Wilson, taught biology at Rootstown, Davey Junior High and Roosevelt before becoming an administrator in the Kent City Schools. His mother, Pat, is the daughter of the late Roy Metcalf, music professor at Kent State, and her brother, Roy, was president of Colonial Machine. She started out teaching home economics, but then obtained a degree in library science and was a librarian in the Kent schools for 22 years.

Watching his father prepare for his biology classes may have whetted Wilson's appetite for biology and chemistry, his mother said.

Whatever the stimulus, he is enjoying a great career as an expert in molecular genetics and large-scale DNA sequence analysis. According to Wikepedia, his laboratory has sequenced and analyzed billions of bases of DNA from the genomes of bacteria, yeast, roundworms, plants, vertebrates, primates and humans. He and his colleagues at The Genome Institute sequenced the first animal genome and contributed substantially to the sequencing and analysis of the human genome.

More recently, the literature states, his laboratory was the first to sequence the genome of a cancer patient and discover genetic signatures relevant to the pathogenesis of the disease. Building upon this achievement, Dr. Wilson's laboratory has sequenced the genomes of several hundred patients in an effort to discover clues that will facilitate more effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other human diseases.

In addition to his position at The Genome Institute, Dr. Wilson is also a Research Member at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, and a member of their Senior Leadership Committee. He was a Research Fellow in the Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology from 1986 to 1990. In 2008, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from Miami University, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences. He was inducted into the Kent City Schools Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wilson and his wife, Allison, have twin sons, Taylor and Evan. When I asked about their career aspirations, he said, "career paths are pending."

New life for a Ravenna landmark

Architect Rick Hawksley, who is restoring the pre-Civil War Ravenna house at 160 N. Chestnut St., has chosen a Sherwin Williams Classical Yellow for the exterior with a cream, ecru-like color for the trim.

"Yellow was a popular color back in the early and mid 19th Century so it's appropriate," Rick said. The color black was seriously considered for the trim, he said, "because it was probably was the color used for that part of the house, but it just looks too severe."

Crown molding on the outside and inside at the time the house was constructed took weeks to be created by hand. Rick said he and his assistant, Tim Ong, a Kent State architecture student, are giving the crown molding special care.

Pedestrians are curious and keep stopping to ask questions. Employees the nearby Ravenna Post Office after an informal poll, "told us yellow is their choice," Rick said.

Drive to save flagpole continues

I was checking out progress at 160 North Chestnut Street after lunch at Guido's with businessman Jack Shafer and Attorney Peggy DiPaola, who head Friends of the Flagpole, the effort to raise $130,000 necessary to repair and restore the flagpole at the Portage County Courthouse. Architectural historian Robert Bruegmann says the flagpole is an historically significant type of steel box-lattice construction, popular in the late 19th Century and utilized by Gustav Eiffel when he constructed the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the centerpiece of the 1889 World's Fair. Ravenna's flagpole was built by the Van Dorn Company in Cleveland in 1893.

Peggy, who is keeping the books, said the campaign to privately fund the repair of the Ravenna structure stands at approximately $90,000. If everyone with a vested interest in the city's future and capable of giving $1,000 as a tax-deductible gift did so, the goal would be surpassed easily and quickly, she said.

Those refrigerator magnets that benefit the flagpole restoration are available for $5 apiece at Hometown Bank in Riddle Block No. 1. A handsome photo of the flagpole with the American flag flying is on the face of the magnet. The photo looks to have been taken from the Portage County Courthouse because Riddle Block No. 9 and the Apaydin Building can easily be seen across the street.

Many communities, lacking a plan, have lost their downtowns to the relentless pressure of vehicular traffic which seems to prefer big box stores with parking in the front. Ravenna's traditional downtown remains a beautiful one and its preservation and enhancement represent an opportunity that can make the county seat community more of a destination point. The Friends of the Flagpole campaign can be a catalyst in that larger effort.

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