John G. Duman
Martin J. Gillen Professor of Biological Sciences
A marine biologist by training (he earned his doctorate in oceanography from UC San Diego), John Duman is a comparative physiologist who specializes in the biological adaptations that cold-blooded organisms enlist to survive sub-zero temperatures. Duman is part of a multi-institution team, led by him and fellow Notre Dame researchers, that has isolated a polysaccharide antifreeze from the adult darkling beetle, Upis ceramboides, which lives deep in the Alaska interior.
While researchers have long known that some animals, including certain species of Antarctic fish, protect themselves from freezing by producing an antifreeze composed of proteins, Duman’s breakthrough discovery points to an entirely new method of protection—one free of proteins.
These findings have important applications for a persistent medical challenge: how to successfully freeze and thaw human tissues. Researchers are already examining how the antifreeze properties of the Upis beetle might teach them something about organ preservation and transplant in humans.
When he died in 1943, longtime Notre Dame friend and 1935 honorary alumnus Martin Gillen willed most of his assets to the University. A portion of those assets created this professorship, as well as the directorship of the Environmental Research Center and the deanship of the business college.