Top Chemists speak at WC
CHESTERTOWN—Washington College continued its celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry on April 5 with a symposium on the effects of metal ions on human health. Titled “Why Copper and Iron? Metal Ions We Need for Good Health,” the panel featured presentations by a trio of award-winning chemists: Valeria C. Culotta, Caryn E. Outten, and Rosette Roat-Malone.
Culotta, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, studies the role of metal ions and oxygen radicals in biology and disease. Metal ions such as copper, iron and manganese are not only trace nutrients but can be quite toxic. One mechanism of toxicity is the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which have been implicated not only in aging but also in numerous human disorders from neurodegeneration to cancer. Culotta has shown that cells in higher organisms have evolved with “metal-trafficking pathways” that guide each metal to its proper destination in the cell. She also has discovered numerous genes and proteins for metal trafficking.
Outten, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of South Carolina, works in the complementary fields of biochemistry and bioinorganic chemistry with a focus on the role of iron in biological systems. She worked with Culotta at Johns Hopkins as a post-doctoral fellow (2001-2005) and began her career at USC with a Transition to Independent Position (TIP) Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. TIP awards recognize talented new investigators who have demonstrated an ability to improve the scientific community’s understanding of the problems and mechanisms associated with exposure to environmental agents. In 2010, she received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECAS), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.
Roat-Malone, adjunct professor of chemistry at Washington College, has written two editions of the textbook Bioinorganic Chemistry: A Short Course ( 2nd edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2007). The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) of the American Chemical Society have supported her research in the development and testing of platinum coordination compounds as anticancer agents. She serves as a reviewer for NSF research grant applications and for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program. Through an NSF-funded Visiting Professorship for Women Award, she taught at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and completed research at Leiden University, the Netherlands. She served as moderator for the symposium and provided a “Primer on Metal Ions.”