Portrait of Dr. Dean Smith, the newly appointed Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

UT Southwestern Medical Center Names New Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology

Portrait of Dr. Dean Smith, the newly appointed Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
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UT Southwestern Medical Center Names New Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology

12 Nov, 2023

Dr. Dean P. Smith appointed as Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Dean Smith, has been appointed as the new Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dean P. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., an expert in the field of odorant sensing, has been named Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology after 31 years as a UT Southwestern faculty member. He is best known for research that has led to a greater understanding of how the brain processes chemical information. Dr. Smith, a distinguished teaching professor, developed a fascination with science after taking classes in genetics and recombinant DNA as an undergraduate at the University of Utah. After receiving his medical degree from Utah’s School of Medicine, he earned a Ph.D. in biology and neuroscience and completed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at San Diego. At UCSD, he became intrigued with signal transduction, how cells convert environmental stimuli like light and odors into neuronal signals, using Drosophila fruit flies as a model organism. Dr. Smith enjoys retirement along the beautiful mountain slopes of the Santa Fe National Forest.

While finishing his Ph.D., he had already secured his next fellowship when he noticed an advertisement from UT Southwestern for a postdoc position. On a whim, he applied and was invited to present his proposal to the search committee that included four of his heroes – Mike Brown, Joe Goldstein, Al Gilman, and Joe Sambrook. When offered a position, he was elated, marking the start of his independent research faculty career with three years of funding to get his own program started. Two years later, Andrew Zinn and Bill Landschulz were accepted into the program, leading to the current UT Southwestern’s endowed scholars program, which has launched the research careers of at least 130 investigators, including three Nobel laureates.

Dr. Smith studied a chemical substance produced in fruit flies called a pheromone, which is a special odorant that triggers behavior change in other fruit flies. His work to evaluate disease mechanisms of pheromone detection at the molecular level defined the function of several proteins with previously unknown functions. “Dean’s work in Drosophila revealed a novel mechanism for odorant sensing by his discovery of an odorant binding protein called lush that activates the odorant’s receptor,” said David Mangelsdorf, Ph.D., chair and professor of pharmacology. He also pioneered one of the first uses of RNAi to knock out genes in Drosophila.

Aside from his laboratory science, Dean has been a model educator at UTSW, winning numerous awards including election in 2009 to the Southwestern Academy of Teachers (SWAT). “Getting nominated to join SWAT was a great honor,” Dr. Smith said. “I really enjoyed mentoring young scientists in the lab and several have gone on to faculty positions. There are wonderful moments when you see the thrill of a new discovery in their eyes.” As Professor Emeritus, he will remain engaged with the pharmacology and neuroscience departments and looks forward to spending more time with family, as well as hiking, biking, and skiing.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center is one of the country’s leading academic medical centers, patient-care providers, and research institutions. The center’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including active Nobel Prize winners. UT Southwestern’s physicians provide medical care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 3 million outpatient visits a year.

About Dean P. Smith

Dean P. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., has had a distinguished career in pharmacology, focusing on the field of odorant sensing. His research has significantly contributed to understanding how the brain processes chemical information, particularly through his work with Drosophila fruit flies. Dr. Smith’s academic journey began at the University of Utah, where he developed his interest in genetics and recombinant DNA. His postdoctoral work at the University of California at San Diego further solidified his research direction, leading to a fruitful career at UT Southwestern. As a professor and now Professor Emeritus, Dr. Smith has been a vital part of the academic community, contributing to both scientific research and education.


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