#98-27

Contact: Diane Greenberg, or Mona S. Rowe

Mailed 3/26/98

EMBARGOED UNTIL MARCH 31, 1998

 

BROOKHAVEN LAB CHEMIST HONORED

BY THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY

Upton, NY - Joanna Fowler, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, was awarded the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal for her research on the biochemical effects of drugs, aging and selected diseases on the brain.

Sponsored by the Olin Corporation Charitable Trust and administered by the American Chemical Society, the award consists of $5,000, an inscribed gold medal and a bronze replica of the medal. The purpose of the award, which was established in 1936, is to recognize distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists who are U.S. citizens.

Dr. Fowler will receive the award at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in Dallas, Texas, on March 31.

Secretary of Energy Federico Peña commented, "After more than two decades or research, Dr. Fowler has been a major contributor to brain research and to diagnosis of disease. Her work has made a tremendous difference to many thousands of Americans in hospitals across the nation. This prestigious honor by her peers is well deserved."

To perform her studies of the brain, Dr. Fowler uses an imaging technique called positron emission tomography, or PET. She commented, "I am honored to receive this award and am especially proud of the basic research that my colleagues and I have done at Brookhaven to develop radiotracers to understand brain biochemistry and the effects of drugs on the brain. PET has emerged as a powerful tool in the study of drug action. Its application in this area is particularly compelling because drug addiction is one of society's most medically, socially and economically devastating public health problems."

In a study cited by Discover magazine's "Top 100 Science Stories of 1996," Dr. Fowler and her colleagues found that smokers had an average of 40 percent less of a crucial brain enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down dopamine, a chemical substance in the brain that is important in movement, motivation and reward. The study suggests that an undetermined substance in cigarette smoke inhibits the enzyme, which may keep dopamine levels up. Findings such as these offer important clues to understanding addiction and the epidemiological features of smoking.

In 1976, Dr. Fowler and her colleagues synthesized 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a radiotracer used in PET. Today, FDG is widely used in PET centers around the world to diagnose and study neurological and psychiatric diseases and to diagnose lung and colon cancer.

Dr. Fowler earned a B.A. in chemistry from the University of South Florida in 1963, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Colorado in 1967. After completing postdoctoral appointments at the University of East Anglia, England, and at Brookhaven Lab, she joined the staff at Brookhaven in 1971.

Dr. Fowler has written 250 published scientific papers and holds six patents for radiolabeling procedures. In addition, her research has garnered numerous honors, including the Jacob Javits Investigator Award in the Neurosciences in both 1986 and 1993. (The 1986 award was shared with fellow Brookhaven Lab chemist Alfred P. Wolf.) In 1988, Dr. Fowler and Dr. Wolf shared the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest, given by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society. In 1994, Dr. Fowler was honored with Brookhaven Lab's R&D Award, and, in 1997, she received the Aebersold Award from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and a U.S. Department of Energy Research Award.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven Science Associates, a partnership between the Research Foundation of the State University of New York on behalf of SUNY Stony Brook, and Battelle Memorial Institute, operates the Laboratory under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

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NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Joanna Fowler is a resident of Bellport, New York.