This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
Dr. Johng Lim Retires
From UW-Eau Claire
phone (715) 836-4741
fax (715) 836-2900

MAILED: Aug. 17, 1999

EAU CLAIRE — When biology professor Dr. Johng Lim arrived in Eau Claire in 1963 for an interview at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the first thing he did was look for a glass of water.
Touring the campus, meeting colleagues and familiarizing himself with the area could come later — his number one priority was finding water. Lim wasn't out to quench his thirst. Rather, he wanted to see if the water met his standards of excellence — if the water wasn't first-class, it was goodbye Eau Claire.
Fortunately, the city lived up to its name.
"The water was good so I decided this would be a good place to work," Lim said with a smile.
And work he has.
For most of his 36 years at UW-Eau Claire Lim taught and researched at an unusual pace, clocking as many as 105 hours in a seven-day period. Before UW-Eau Claire's facilities grew, he spent Thursday afternoons, Fridays and weekends in the genetics lab at the University of Minnesota. He also was a visiting professor and research geneticist at UW-Madison and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
"Former Chancellor Leonard Haas used to say he could see Johng's window in Phillips Hall and could never remember going to bed without seeing Johng's light on," said Dr. Marcus Fay, former chair of the biology department. "And he was always at school at 6:30 in the morning — always before the rest of us."
In June Lim decided to slow down, retiring from the university at the end of the summer.
"I've enjoyed my career at UW-Eau Claire," Lim said. "I've worked with some wonderful people and I have so many great memories."
Lim leaves the university with a long list of accomplishments, including receiving awards such as the Wisconsin Distinguished Professorship in 1988, the first UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Scholarship Award in 1984 and the UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Teaching Award in 1973.
During his career Lim received almost $1.5 million in research grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and other organizations, making him the top research grant recipient ever at UW-Eau Claire.
"Research and teaching are his very life," Fay said. "Everything he does is pointed toward new knowledge in science and this makes him happy."
Much of Lim's teaching and research has been dedicated to the study of genetics — specifically, investigating the characteristics of unstable genes in the chromosomes of fruit flies.
Trained as a corn geneticist, he taught himself the procedures of identifying and cloning transposable elements known to cause mutations among normal genes in the flies' chromosomes. The research was based on discoveries made in the 1940s by Dr. Barbara McClintock, a Nobel Prize winner who studied unstable traits in corn. Lim was among the first geneticists to suggest that transposable elements such as "hobo" may be linked to forms of hereditary cancer in humans.
Lim has shared his gene research data with counterparts at Harvard, the University of California-Berkeley and other institutions as far away as the island of Crete. He also shares his findings with his classes and student lab assistants as precisely as he informs colleagues through journal articles and presentations. He supports the role of scholarship and undergraduate research as a means of encouraging good teachers to be lifelong learners.
"I consider him to be one the quintessential scholar-teacher," Fay said of Lim. "I've never met a student or faculty member who didn't think he was the greatest."
During his teaching career, Lim taught courses in biology and genetics, as well as molecular biology and molecular genetics courses, which are required for the comprehensive major in the biochemistry/molecular biology program.
Lim became interested in biology and genetics after witnessing the devastation produced by the Korean War. During his junior year at Yunsei University in Seoul, war broke out between North and South Korea and Lim found himself working as an interpreter and interrogator for the United States military.
When the war ended in 1953 much of the countryside was spoiled, leaving a large portion of the populace starving and poor. Lim decided he wanted to do something about the problem by studying food production in the United States and using that knowledge to help rehabilitate his country's crop output.
Lim enrolled at Rochester Junior College in Rochester, Minn., in 1954 and while working as a page at Mayo Clinic's medical library came across an introductory genetics textbook. Within a week he finished the book and decided to explore the subject.
He went on to earn bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in genetics at the University of Minnesota. By then conditions in his home country had improved so Lim stayed in the United States to teach, a profession he takes seriously.
"I always ask myself how to be a successful teacher," Lim said. "The answer I always get is that there is a lot more to education than simply knowing a subject backward and forward. What I do is treat my students like a member of my family and that's the guiding principle for me all this time. Even if I failed at least I've tried."
Many of his students now work at major research institutions and medical facilities such as the Mayo Clinic. One of his students, Dr. Chih-Ping Liu, owns a prosperous biotechnology company and another, Dr. Andrew Neuwald, is the founding member of a new computational biology program at the world renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
"If a student gets a recommendation from Johng, you could safely say their papers are in order," Fay said. "Johng is one of the leading fruit fly geneticists in the world and it's a privilege to be associated with him."
For senior biochemistry and molecular biology major Regenia Smalley, being a part of Lim's "family" has been a memorable experience.
"His office door is always open," Smalley said. "I talk to him all the time about anything. He's the kind of professor who is there for his students."
The subjects Lim teaches can be difficult but he makes them understandable and fun to learn, she said.
"He's an excellent teacher — someone who is very fair and helpful," Smalley said. "He makes his lectures interesting and he lets his students try to figure out things themselves."
"Dr. Lim has had a remarkable career at UW-Eau Claire and a tremendous impact on the lives of many of our students," Provost Ronald Satz said. "Recognized by current students, alumni, campus colleagues, scholars at numerous institutions, and national funding agencies as an outstanding teacher and scholar, he exemplifies the best that universities have to offer in the mentorship of young men and women."
Aside from teaching and researching, Lim enjoys fishing, classical music and riding horses — a hobby since he was a boy. He was selected to be a member of the Korean equestrian team at the 1952 Olympics but the war ended those plans.
Retirement plans for Lim include relaxing and then continuing research at several locations including Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
"Right now it's too exciting to ignore scientific advancements," he said of his study of fruit fly chromosomes. "I want to keep on learning."
UW-Eau Claire will miss Lim in his retirement, Fay said.
"The university has lost a person whose contributions over the past 36 years have been outstanding and extremely significant," Fay said. "I've always felt that UW-Eau Claire was fortunate to have him as a member of its faculty."

UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: Aug. 17, 1999