Ten WUSTL faculty to receive Outstanding St. Louis Scientists Awards

Academy of Science of St. Louis to recognize area scientists during its annual dinner

The Academy of Science of St. Louis will honor 10 faculty members from Washington University in St. Louis for their contributions and leadership in science and medicine.

The academy will present the Outstanding St. Louis Scientists Awards at its 18th annual dinner Thursday, April 19, at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel.The awards are designed to focus attention on St. Louis individuals and institutions known around the world for scientific contributions to research, industry and quality of life.

The WUSTL winners:

Michael W. Friedlander, PhD, professor emeritus of physics in Arts & Sciences, will receive the Science Educator Award.

For more than four decades, Friedlander has played a major role in science education both locally and nationally. Each semester since 1994, he has organized a series of four “Saturday Science” public lectures in Department of Physics. The 200-seat lecture hall is often filled.

Beyond the region, Friedlander has been an influence for science understanding with his five books written for the general public. The two published by Harvard University Press describe the history of the study of cosmic rays and what is now known about these energetic particles — an area of astrophysics to which he has contributed significant original research.

Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Robert J. Glazer Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Immunology and founding director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, will receive the Peter H. Raven Lifetime Achievement Award.

Gordon is recognized for his leadership in “establishing the field of human microbiome research.”

His work and this field are providing new understanding of the origins of our biological differences, new approaches for understanding how changes in our cultural traditions and lifestyles are impacting our health and risk for various diseases and new therapeutic approaches to illnesses previously thought to have a microbial component.

A central focus of his lab is the relationship between gut microbial communities and the nutritional status of infants, children and adults living in Westernized and non-Westernized societies.

Scott J. Hultgren, PhD, the Helen Lehbrink Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology and director of the Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research, will receive the Fellows Award.

Hultgren, one of the world’s most accomplished microbiologists, studies urinary tract infections, the most common infectious complaint of women in primary outpatient clinics.

His research has changed scientists’ understanding of the molecular basis of chronic and recurrent urinary tract infections. In addition, he is developing new antibiotics and vaccines to prevent and treat the infections.

Also active in women’s health policy, Hultgren contributed to the strategic plan developed by the Office of Research in Women’s Health to set priorities for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Hultgren was elected into the National Academy of Sciences in 2011.

Timothy J. Ley, MD, the Lewis T. and Rosalind B. Apple Chair in Oncology, professor of medicine and of genetics, and associate director of The Genome Institute; Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, professor of genetics and of molecular microbiology, co-director and director of technology development of The Genome Institute; and Richard K. Wilson, PhD, professor of genetics and director of The Genome Institute, will share the George Engelmann Interdisciplinary/Collaborative Science Award, a new award that recognizes outstanding achievement in science, engineering or technology that results from collaboration among two or more individuals across disciplinary and/or institutional boundaries.

Ley, Mardis and Wilson are recognized for collaborative work that has helped to lay the foundation of cancer genomic research, diagnostics and therapeutics. The academy recognizes them for their unique look at cancer, which has helped to bring in a new era of personalized medicine.

The academy also commended them for their participation in a $65 million partnership with St. Jude Children’s Hospital to define the gene mutation spectrum in pediatric cancer. That work is creating a public database that will be shared with the international scientific community to speed progress toward fighting childhood cancers.

Audrey R. Odom, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics and of molecular microbiology, will receive the Innovation Award.

Odom is dissecting a key metabolic pathway in malaria that is not found in humans and provides a novel target for drug development.

Worldwide, there is an urgent need for new drugs to treat malaria, which causes more than a million deaths per year, mostly in young children. Odom’s lab focuses on improving the fundamental understanding of the basic molecular and cellular biology of the malaria parasite to identify new antimalarial drug targets.

Mabel L. Purkerson, MD, professor emerita of medicine, will receive the Trustee Award.

For more than 40 years, Purkerson served as a clinician, teacher, investigator and administrator at the School of Medicine. The academy recognizes her as a physician/scientist, leading by example, focusing on excellence and being open to new opportunities and techniques.

She used an interdisciplinary approach to find new strategies and tools to further her research, allowing her to make substantial contributions in the field of kidney physiology. These achievements led to her becoming the first female full professor in the Department of Medicine.

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, will receive the academy’s individual Science Leadership Award.

The academy recognizes Shapiro for his accomplishments in transforming the medical school’s research enterprise to focus on clinical and translational research, interdisciplinary teams, visionary genomics and regional partnerships. The academy commended him for implementing BioMed 21, the university’s initiative to facilitate multidisciplinary, collaborative research and rapidly apply breakthroughs to patient care.

Stuart A. Solin, PhD, the Charles M. Hohenberg Professor of Experimental Physics, will receive the James B. Eads Award.

Solin is recognized for significant discoveries and initiatives in the fields of condensed matter physics and nanosciences. Most recently, as inventor of the EMR (Extraordinary MagnetoResistance) sensor device concept, he has seeded a hugely important area of research, which has now been taken up extensively by industry around the globe.

His work has the capacity to revolutionize data storage and retrieval in computers. Stuart has already started work on the biological and medical application of his new class of sensors. Indications are that EMR and EEC (Extraordinary Electroconductance) nanoscale sensors can be used for cancer detection.