Junior Seau
Junior Seau during his career with the San Diego Chargers. Photo: Junior Seau Foundation/Facebook

An endowed chair established by the Junior Seau Foundation in memory of the late Charger and NFL Hall of Famer has been awarded to a UC San Diego researcher whose work aims to better understand human neurological disorders and brain injury.

Yishi Jin, professor and chair of the Section of Neurobiology in the Division of Biological Sciences at UCSD, was awarded the inaugural chair in large part due to her work focusing on molecular genetic mechanisms underlying the development of the nervous system and regeneration of wounded nervous systems.

“I am honored by this award and particularly grateful for the recognition of my work on the fundamental understanding of the genetic basis of cellular response to traumatic injury,” Jin said. “This endowed fund will give us freedom to test high-risk and high-reward ideas.”

The chair provides a dedicated source of funds, in perpetuity, for the chair holder’s scholarly activities as well as support for faculty salaries and graduate fellowships.

The Junior Seau Foundation donated a total of $250,000, which was matched dollar-for-dollar as part of the UC San Diego Chancellor’s Endowed Chair and Faculty Fellowship Challenge, as well as by the university’s Division of Biological Sciences and the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind, bringing total funding to $1 million. The gift also established the Junior Seau Lectureship Series to inform the community and K-12 students about the causes and risks associated with traumatic brain injury.

Seau played 13 seasons with the Chargers — 1990-2002 — as linebacker. He later played for Miami, followed by New England. He announced his retirement January 13, 2010. Two years later, on May 2, 2012, his girlfriend found him dead with a gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Oceanside. He left no suicide note.

A subsequent autopsy revealed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated blows to the head.