99-34
April 20, 1999

 

Nora Volkow Named Associate Director for Life Sciences at Brookhaven Lab

UPTON, NY - Nora Volkow, a board-certified psychiatrist and a world-leader in research on addiction, has been named Associate Laboratory Director for Life Sciences at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. The first female associate director in science at Brookhaven, Dr. Volkow succeeds Richard Setlow, who has returned to research at the Laboratory as a senior biophysicist.

Dr. Volkow will head the Laboratory's Biology and Medical Departments, which together have about 150 employees. In the Medical Department, major research areas include the development of new diagnostic techniques for nuclear medicine, neurosciences, cancer, medical physics and radiation therapy. The Biology Department pursues research in molecular genetics, structural biology, genomics and biotechnology.

On the future of life sciences at the Laboratory, Dr. Volkow said, "My primary goal is to facilitate research in areas in which the two departments have unique expertise and resources. Besides continuing our partnership with the Department of Energy, I would like to secure more funding through other government sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, and through new collaborations and interagency agreements."

Among the initiatives Dr. Volkow considers most important in the Biology Department are the Proteome Project, a large-scale effort to identify the structure of proteins and their functions. The project involves several national laboratories, universities and industry. In the Medical Department, boron neutron capture therapy, an experimental technique to treat a type of lethal brain tumor, remains a major initiative. Dr. Volkow hopes to expand this experimental therapy to determine if it will be effective in treating other types of cancer.

Cancer research will be a major component of Brookhaven's life sciences research in the new millennium, Dr. Volkow explained. "We will continue to focus on genome research, the effects of radiation on cells, and the repair processes of DNA - basic research that may lead to understanding the causes of cancer. Also, we'll continue to explore new radiation treatments, and ongoing research may provide new and more effective radiotracers for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer."

Another major area of research will be investigations of the human brain. This research will take advantage of the unique imaging resources at Brookhaven. Dr. Volkow will continue her own research, which involves the use of an imaging method called positron emission tomography (PET) to investigate the biochemical changes in the brain associated with drug addiction, alcoholism and aging. Her studies are focused on finding an effective pharmacological treatment of addiction and could aid in finding avenues for delaying and counteracting the deleterious effects of aging.

Dr. Volkow's vision for future research in life sciences at Brookhaven is to take the information derived from the human genome project and apply it to understanding how the human brain works and how it is disrupted by disease.

After receiving her M.D. in 1980 from the National University of Mexico, Dr. Volkow did her residency at New York University's Department of Psychiatry, from 1981-84, and during this time, she used the Brookhaven PET facility for research on schizophrenia. At the University of Texas Medical School from 1984-87, Dr. Volkow performed groundbreaking research on the toxic effects of cocaine on the brain. In 1987, she joined Brookhaven's staff as an associate scientist to continue this research. She became associate chief of staff of Brookhaven's Clinical Research Center in 1990, was appointed director of the Nuclear Medicine Program in 1994, and, in 1996, she became chair of the Laboratory's Medical Department. Since 1987, she has been on the staff of the Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Among her many honors, Dr. Volkow received Brookhaven Lab's 1995 Distinguished Research and Development Award and the 1998 Brookhaven Town Award to honor women in medicine. Most recently, she was named 1999 Woman Scientist of the Year by the Museum of Science and History and the Association for Women in Science, Jacksonville Chapter, Florida.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy

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NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Nora Volkow lives in Shoreham, NY.