For Immediate Release — Thursday, November 10, 2005
Mary E. McCrank
Media Relations Officer
SUNY Geneseo Chemistry Professor Wins Prestigious Award
GENESEO, N.Y. — Wendy Pogozelski, associate professor of chemistry at the State University of New York at Geneseo, has been awarded a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.
Pogozelski, of Geneseo, N.Y., was one of seven professors across the country to receive a $60,000 award this year from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Inc. The award program supports young faculty early in their careers in undergraduate education, recognizing them for their teaching, mentorship, and accomplishments in research and teaching.
The foundation was established in 1946 as a memorial to Camille and Henry Dreyfus, brothers who made major contributions in the research of materials used in the manufacture of photographic films and artificial silk. The foundation supports advancement in the chemical sciences, including biochemistry.
The award will support research being conducted by Pogozelski and students on deletion events in mitochondrial DNA. The grant will cover five years of research, but Pogozelski said she expects the research to be conducted within three years. The award will provide funding for five student researchers and Pogozelski to attend a course on single-cell techniques at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island.
Pogozelski's research focuses on how mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, which is found outside the cell nucleus) can be damaged in ways that lead to diseases, and particularly the loss of DNA through "common deletions," which occur with relative frequency. She said the Dreyfus Award will allow her to focus on radiation effects and the role that gamma rays play in the induction of mutations in mitochondrial DNA. While mutations in nuclear DNA have been studied for decades, mitochondrial DNA is far less understood, she said. Recently, researchers have come to realize that mitochondrial DNA mutations result in disease that can be passed on to offspring, prompting concern in the scientific community as to how these mutations develop and how researchers can determine when these mutations reach levels that have a pathological effect.
"Our primary focus is learning how these occur and why they occur," said Pogozelski, adding that mitochondrial DNA is only maternally inherited. The deletions, she said, have recently been detected in patients with Alzheimer's and have also been discovered in tumors.
The research could affect patients with vision and nerve diseases, degenerative Parkinson's disease, neurological Alzheimer's disease and autism, and certain kinds of deafness, she said. The research also could help design tests for biodosimetry, which could assist in determining a patient's sensitivity to radiation and how to treat accidental radiation doses.
"Working with students is the wonderful part of this — seeing them succeed," said Pogozelski. She also credits Associate Professor of Mathematics Anthony Macula and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biology Robert O'Donnell, who have collaborated in her research.
Pogozelski has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards. Last year, she was one of four Geneseo professors who shared a multi-year $806,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support the college's Undergraduate Biomathematical Research Career Initiative, which trains students for graduate school and careers in biomathematics, and address problems that reach across these disciplinary borders. In 1999, she was the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Special Grant Program. She has had articles published in scientific journals, including Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, Radiation Research, Chemical Reviews and the Journal of American Chemical Society. She has presented at numerous conferences across the world and nation, and serves as a reviewer for chemistry texts, manuscripts and grant proposals.
"The Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award is a great honor for Dr. Pogozelski and for SUNY Geneseo, and it represents a tremendous validation of Wendy's outstanding work both within the classroom and within her research laboratory," said Geneseo Provost Katherine Conway-Turner. "Dr. Pogozelski's research will measure deletion events in mitochondrial DNA due to gamma rays and its effects, and it promises to make significant contributions to the scientific community. Dr. Pogozelski is a wonderful model for her peers and a superb member of our college community."
Pogozelski received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pa., and her Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. She conducted post-doctorate research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's Department of Condensed Matter in Washington, D.C., for two years before joining the Geneseo faculty in 1996.
In 2004, Pogozelski was appointed to a three-year term as the Geneseo Alumni Association Professor, which provides an annual grant of $6,000 a year so recipients can design and teach one course of their choosing. In 2001, she was named a recipient of an international Young Investigator Award that recognized her research into the relationship between DNA damage and cell health.
In his letter nominating Pogozelski for the award, David Geiger, professor of chemistry at Geneseo, wrote that Pogozelski "goes to great lengths to keep her students involved in the lecture." She has adopted a learning-aid methodology for use with memorization, incorporates discussion about current trends — such as the metabolic effects of low-carbohydrate diets — into her biochemistry course, and shares with her students her large repertoire of chemistry and biochemistry songs, which has served as a learning tool.
In addition to Pogozelski, recipients of the 2005 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards work at Barnard College, Fordham University, Mount Holyoke College, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Swarthmore College and the University of Richmond.