Posted September 8, 2010
By Aisling Gamble
The Royal Society of Canada has elected Dr. Susan Lees-Miller and Dr. Quentin Pittman of the Faculty of Medicine to their fellowship, the highest academic accolade they give to scientists and scholars.
Lees-Miller is a currently a professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oncology, and Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary. Born in Wales, Lees-Miller admits when she first was notified of her election to the coveted society, she thought an error had been made.
“When I first saw the email, I wondered if they had made a mistake and sent it to the wrong person! After it sank in, I felt very grateful and honoured my peers would put me forward for this.” Lees-Miller notes finding out while visiting her parents was especially nice. “They were the first to know, and they were very proud.”
Her research focuses on how cells respond to ionizing radiation (IR) and certain chemotherapeutic drugs. IR, in the form of radiation therapy, is one of the mainstays of cancer treatment. Radiation kills cells by inducing a form of DNA damage known as a DNA double strand break (DSB). The research is aimed at understanding precisely how DSBs are detected and repaired in human cells. This work is helping to understand the molecular basis of cancer, and may help radiation oncologists predict how a patient's particular tumor will respond to radiation.
Dr. Quentin Pittman, a professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology was similarly honoured by his election to the fellowship.
“I was flattered and humbled. The membership includes so many individuals whom I greatly admire.” Pittman says his election is somewhat of a collaborative effort since the science he is being recognized for did not happen in isolation. “This award is a reflection of the contributions of the many trainees who have gone through my laboratory and the scientific effort of my colleagues here at the University of Calgary.”
Pittman’s research activities focus on central autonomic control of fever, antipyresis and blood pressure, and on the synaptic pharmacology of important endocrine and autonomic nuclei such as the supraoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus and the dorsal vagal complex. In addition, his laboratory studies plasticity of neuronal function during pregnancy and lactation, and the influence of neonatal immune challenges on adult autonomic function.
Both Lees-Miller and Pittman will be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada Fellowship at a ceremony which will be held in November in Ottawa. In order to become a Fellow of the RSC, new Fellows must participate in an Induction ceremony within three years of their election.