Gary grew up in Rockford, Il and earned a B.A. in Chemistry from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Michael Smith at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and in the laboratory of Robert J.P. Williams at the University of Oxford in England. Gary joined UNC in 1989 and is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biophysics. Among his many notable awards, one he is especially proud of is his 2017 University Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement. His research focuses on understanding protein chemistry in cells and under crowded conditions in vitro.
Gary’s group consists of five to six graduate students, an equal number of undergraduates, and perhaps a postdoc. Mentoring is an essential part of his laboratory philosophy. He meets with every student each Wednesday, and has group meetings every Thursday.
Group members use these meetings to keep everyone informed of progress, discuss the latest literature and practice presentations. His mentorship philosophy is well reflected in the above-mentioned mentorship award.
Gary has trained four postdoctoral scholars, over 50 Ph.D. chemists and 60 undergraduates in his laboratory. All but six of the undergraduates continued to graduate-, medical-, dental-, or veterinary- school.
Thirty-four of his peer-reviewed papers include a total 29 undergraduate co-authors. Four publications have an undergraduate as the first author. Two of those four are his most cited works.
In his spare time, Gary rides his Moto Guzzi, tries to keep his dune buggy running, and bbqs a fine brisket.
If you want to have Professor Pielak on your Graduate Committee, you must follow these requirements:
You must provide a copy of your prospectus at least two weeks before your oral.
Your prospectus must be twelve or fewer pages, use 12-point type, double spaced, 1-inch margins. The page total includes figures and figure captions, but not the title page or literature citations.
I must have your complete dissertation, approved by your advisor, at least two weeks before your defense.