The 2008 The Francis P. Garvan–John M. Olin Medal Awardee is being announced by the American Chemical Society (ACS). Recognizing distinguished research and service achieved by women chemists, the Award is the third oldest ACS award and first award established to honor women chemists. The award consists of $5,000 in addition to a commemorative medal and certificate. Elizabeth Theil, Ph.D., senior scientist at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland’s research institute, has been awarded the prestigious Garvan-Olin Medal for her research on the chemistry of iron in biology and for her advocacy of biochemistry studies in the education of all chemists.
Dr. Theil was honored for her research on the structure, function and genetic control of Nature’s bioreactor for iron and oxygen, ferritin. Ferritin is a protein cage with a nano-sized ball of rust inside. The ferritin gene, mRNA and protein are important in understanding iron overload, a complication of sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Ferritin is also a factor in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia, which is common in both women and children. The iron in the seeds of many legumes (soybeans, garbanzos, lentils, etc.) is in ferritin, and humans can absorb the iron from the ferritin in the seeds. Iron is an element that Dr. Theil describes as something that “we can’t live with, but we can’t live without.” Too much iron clogs our system, but not enough iron makes us weak.
Individuals awarded the honor are nominated in an anonymous process, with selection by a committee of distinguished chemists. “I am honored by this recognition of my scientific accomplishments,” said Dr. Theil.
Dr. Theil was also recognized for her commitment to new areas in chemical education, where she was an early advocate for the requirement of biochemistry in ACS approved curricula. Her position recognizes the rapid expansion of chemistry into biology in the 21st century. The ACS is one of the few learned scientific societies that evaluate the undergraduate education of future scientific members.
Dr. Theil is one of the thirty-five principle investigators (PI) at CHORI and is currently the Leader of the Council of BioIron at the research institute. In addition, she is an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutritional, Sciences, and Toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley and in the Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry at North Carolina State University, where she formerly was The University Professor of Biochemistry and Physics.
The award and the ceremony will take place April 8, 2008, at the ACS meeting in New Orleans. For more information on Dr. Theil’s research, please visit http://www.chori.org/Principal_Investigators/Theil_Elizabeth_C/theil_overview.html
For more information about the America Chemical Society and the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal, please visit www.chemistry.org