The anthrax specialist

Jun 222010
Authors: Abel Oshevire

Rick Lyon’s expertise is handling anthrax.

As CSU’s new director for Infectious Disease Research, he will get to work with it, and other bio-threats and pathogens, on a daily basis.

The position will allow him to further the understanding of how disease-carrying agents interact with a host, focus on bio-threats and research several diseases that could be used as biological weapons.

Bill Farland, CSU’s vice president for Research, said the university underwent a wide-scale recruitment search for committee leaders in the field. Lyons was the ideal candidate.

“Dr. Lyons was right for the job, as he has a strong background in infectious disease research. He also has connections with government agencies such as the Department of Defense and Homeland Security,” Farland said.

Lyons replaces Ralph Smith, an infectious disease professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who retired as director on May 30 after more than 27 years of service.

Lyons received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas in 1981, and before coming to CSU, served as a professor in Medicine and director of the Center for Infectious Disease and Immunity at the University of New Mexico Health Science.

CSU houses one of the best infectious disease centers in the world, center leaders said, and spends more than $50 million on research annually. The center provides jobs for more than 100 CSU faculty members.

The center, Lyons said, works by bringing together individuals from multiple disciplines and departments and building on the strengths of these individuals enhances the research.

CSU’s team of scientists is currently working on a National Institute of Health-funded regional project, The Rocky Mountain Research Center of Excellence, which involves researchers from all over the United States working to develop a step-by-step understanding of different emerging infections.

Former colleagues at the University of New Mexico know Lyons for his dedication to science and research.

“I have known Dr. Lyons for a couple of years, and I believe UNM will miss him greatly for several reasons,” said Jeffrey Griffith, associate dean for UNM’s School of Medicine. “We will miss his research excellence. He was also outstanding on a personal and professional level.”

What most of his former colleagues find fascinating or don’t know about Lyons, however, is his personal habit of taking road trips, Lyons said.

“I would much rather drive someplace just to see the sights along the way rather than fly above them. It is not uncommon for my wife and me to jump in our car and drive 10 to 12 hours a day for three or four days,” he said. “I can’t stand organized trips.”

Lyons thinks he’ll adjust to CSU just fine but warned that his new colleagues will have to get used to his less-than-ideal e-mail etiquette.

“The spelling on my e-mails can be horrid to the point that one of my sons asked me what language I was typing in,” he said.

“Luckily, the brain generally is able to decipher what the word is even when the letters are not in the right order.”

Staff writer Abel Oshevire can be reached at

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