Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Symposium Brings Top Chemists to WC to Focus on the Role of Metal Ions in Health

CHESTERTOWN—Washington College continues its celebration of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry Tuesday, 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 features presentations by a trio of award-winning chemists: Valeria C. Culotta, Caryn E. Outten, and Rosette Roat-Malone. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 5 p.m. in Decker Theatre, the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts, on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.
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 will serve as moderator for the symposium and provide a “Primer on Metal Ions.”
The April 5 symposium is sponsored by the William James Forum and the Washington College Chapter of Sigma Xi. Following the presentations, the Washington College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Theta of Maryland will host a reception in the Underwood Lobby.
The William James Forum was founded in 1963 by the late Washington College professor of philosophy and religion Peter F. Tapke to honor the multitalented nineteenth century philosopher William James, who was also an artist, explorer, medical doctor, psychologist, and theologian. The Forum considers issues from any field of inquiry that have practical relevance to life and decision-making.

Sigma Xi, the international honor society of science and engineering, was founded in 1886 at Cornell University to reward excellence in scientific research and to encourage a sense of companionship and cooperation among scientists in all fields. Sigma Xi has nearly 60,000 members in more than 500 chapters worldwide. The Washington College Chapter was founded in 2001.

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