Meet 2017 Commencement Speaker Dr. Kenneth D. Stuart, Ph.D.

Meet 2017 Commencement Speaker Dr. Kenneth D. Stuart, Ph.D.

Graduation at Northeastern University – Seattle is nearing. The hard work has paid off for our graduates, who will begin to pursue internships, travel, further their career paths or continue their education. As preparations for graduation get underway, the excitement around the Northeastern University – Seattle campus is palpable, especially as this year’s commencement ceremony features our largest graduating class and welcome.

This year’s commencement speaker is renowned biologist Dr. Kenneth D. Stuart, Ph.D. He is the founder of the Center for Infectious Disease Research, the largest independent non-profit with the sole focus of discovering new solutions for a myriad of diseases – including malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniosis.

Dr. Stuart grew up in Boston and came from humble beginnings. His father was a housepainter, while his mother was a stay-at-home mother. While attending high school, Dr. Stuart took two science classes – chemistry and physics. He graduated, but like many other high school graduates, he didn’t understand how he could actually afford to go to college with his limited resources. Reflecting upon this time, Dr. Stuart said that more often than not “a lot of randomness and lack of control is what turns out to be a very important step in your life.” Ultimately, Dr. Stuart decided that he wanted to apply for Northeastern University in Boston. During the application process he had to choose an area of study. Although it was an uncertain and turbulent time, Dr. Stuart knew that he wanted to study science. However, there were a few issues. He didn’t like chemistry, and although he found physics interesting, he conceded it could be quite dry. His alternative was biology and it was the decision to pursue biology that set the course for his future.

Dr. Stuart received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Northeastern University in 1963. He then completed his Master’s in Biology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1965. He decided to advance his academic career further by undertaking his Ph.D. in Zoology. He studied at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and completed his Ph.D. in 1969. Dr. Stuart has also received postdoctoral training in biochemistry at the National Institute for Medical Research in London and SUNY Stony Brook, before becoming an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of South Florida.

When Dr. Stuart moved to Washington State he founded the Center for Infectious Disease Research, which is currently the largest nonprofit research institute in the U.S. that is focused exclusively on global infectious diseases. The Center for Infectious Disease Research, often abbreviated to CID Research, is affiliated with the University of Washington, where Dr. Stuart is an Affiliate Professor of Global Health. He also chaired the Department of Pathobiology at UW for eight years from 1996 to 2004.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research has made numerous fundamental discoveries since its foundation. The center has also developed a malaria program that is focused on understanding the pathogen that causes the disease, then how to use that knowledge to develop new vaccines and drugs. Dr. Stuart is an expert on the molecular and cell biology of pathogens that cause African sleeping sickness, leishmaniosis and Chagas disease. He is also widely recognized for his groundbreaking research regarding RNA editing, a process that is unique to certain pathogens that provides targets for drug development.
Some advice he had for our graduating students,“Commencement is a time of transition, it is a transition throughout life. One needs to have an abiding curiosity and want to solve problems. Each person needs to find their own passions. It’s a very individual thing.”

This year’s graduation will take place at the 425 Westlake event space near campus in South Lake Union. The ceremony starts at 2 p.m. a reception will be hosted immediately after on campus at 401 Terry Ave N. The graduation ceremony will be available via live stream for those who cannot attend in person. Information about how to access the live stream will be posted on Northeastern Seattle’s Facebook page and emailed out to students.

Interim Dean, Dr. Paula Boyum, will address the 2017 advanced degree graduates. The 2017 graduation class includes 13 students from various degree programs.

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