Two international leaders in the role of micronutrients in health promotion and disease prevention, and the function of small RNA in genetic regulation today were named distinguished professors at Oregon State University, the institution’s highest academic honor.
The award was made to Balz Frei, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics and director of the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU; and James Carrington, professor of botany and plant pathology and director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing.
Frei, who received his doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and has been at OSU for 13 years, is a world leader in the study of vitamin C, as well as other antioxidants and micronutrients, in the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular diseases and other health problems. He is carrying on some of the pioneering research in orthomolecular medicine done by Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel laureate and OSU alumnus.
Frei has received numerous other career awards and honors, serves on the editorial boards of several professional journals, has authored about 200 publications, and done research that has been cited more than 14,000 times by other scientists. He led the drive to create the Linus Pauling Science Center, a $62.5 million facility now under construction on the OSU campus, and was also instrumental in the Linus Pauling Institute being awarded $6 million in 2003 by the National Institutes of Health for a Center of Excellence for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a grant which was recently renewed for a second five-year term.
“When LPI moved from Palo Alto to OSU in 1996, Dr. Frei and just one other staff member completely re-built it, recruited several superb faculty colleagues, and made LPI a jewel in the crown of OSU,” said Andy Karplus, professor and chairman of the OSU Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. “His work has stimulated research efforts and funding, attracted excellent graduate students and created an effective public education network for health maintenance.”
Carrington, who was recently named as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, received his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley and has been at OSU for nine years. He is one of the world leaders in the study of “small RNA,” part of the research that in 2002 was cited by the journal Science as the scientific “Breakthrough of the Year.”
Carrington’s work has received millions of dollars in grant support from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, learning more about how genes are “silenced” through a natural mechanism involving tiny RNA. He and others have shown that animals, plants and other organisms use small RNA and gene silencing to control growth, development, and defend against viruses.
Also the recipient of many other career awards and honors, Carrington is a mentor for many other young scientists at OSU and has led a campus initiative to transform biological sciences, by linking them more closely with the huge potential of computational science and advanced, powerful computer systems.
“Dr. Carrington was one of the early pioneers in the RNA silencing field, which has exploded in recent years in basic and applied directions that are yielding new medicines, agricultural products and industrial processes,” said Dan Arp, dean of the University Honors College.
OSU distinguished professor titles have been awarded annually since 1988 to recognize outstanding, active faculty members who have achieved national or international stature as a result of their contributions to scholarship, creative activity, research, education, and service – such as recent recipients Steve Strauss, an expert in the application of gene research to forestry, or Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist and current head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – and whose work has been highly influential in their fields.