After graduating from NIU, Professor Hampel received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1969 and returned to NIU in 1970 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. His scientific and scholarly achievements over the course of the next 30 years are truly impressive and have earned him an international reputation.
Hampel garnered over $3.5 million in research funding (primarily from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation), published over 60 scientific papers in the world’s most respected journals, published 22 book chapters, and is the holder of eight biotechnology patents. He was a visiting staff scientist at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory, and the Salk Institute of Biology. He also was a visiting professor at the University of California – Davis, as well as at UC – San Diego and the National Institutes of Health.
In the course of his research, he invented a method to crystallize macromolecules that remains the standard in the field; he grew the first crystals of nucleic acids; and he discovered a catalytic ribonucleic acid, which truly changed the field of molecular biology. Changes to ribozymes which Hampel engineered in his laboratory created a product that entered clinical trials as an anti-AIDS therapy.
He was named a Presidential Research Professor in 1982 and elevated to Distinguished Research Professor in 1986.