posted March 19, 2001

James Gentile Honored for Research Excellence

Dr. James Gentile of the Hope College faculty has received the Alexander Hollaender Award for excellence from the 2,500-member North American Environmental Mutagen Society.

The award recognizes general research excellence, research excellence focused in the area of environmental mutagenesis and the protection of human health, and outstanding contributions in educating students. Only one recipient is named each year.

Gentile received the award on Saturday, March 17, during the society's March 16-22 annual meeting, held in San Diego, Calif. He is the dean for the natural sciences and the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Biology at Hope, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1976.

"He is a great teacher, educator, researcher and role model, and is providing leadership to the science of mutagenesis by serving as the Editor-in-Chief of 'Mutation Research,' the premier international journal in our field," noted the letter nominating Gentile for the award. "Prof. Gentile is internationally recognized as a leading scientist in the area of chemical mutagenesis and risk assessment."

Gentile has conducted research in environmental mutagenesis for more than a quarter century, making contributions to the understanding of how xenobiotics interact with biological systems. Work he started while at the Yale University School of Medicine helped show how chemicals, such as some pollutants and agrochemicals, can react with plants in a way that is harmful to the humans who might later eat them. More recently, he has been examining how certain parasitic infections can increase susceptibility to the development of tumors, and how such tumors might be prevented. He has authored or co-authored more than 160 scientific publications since 1974.

Through the years, he has involved more than 120 students at Hope in his research. Those who have gone on to make career contributions to the field of mutagenesis include Dr. Marilyn Aardema, now a scientist with Procter and Gamble; Dr. Sherri Gaff-Brown, at Monsanto Corporation; Dr. Malcolm Lippert, a member of the faculty at St. Michaels College in Vermont; Dr. Susan Robbins, a research scientist the University of Cincinnati; Dr. Tim Shafer, a research scientist at the US EPA; Dr. Janice Suhajda, a physician living in Rochester; and Dr. Beth Vande Waa, on the faculty at the University of South Alabama.

In addition to editing "Mutation Research," Gentile has held a variety of leadership positions in the Environmental Mutagen Society, and from 1992 to 1994 he was the society's president. Currently, he chairs the strategic planning group for the foundation of the International Association of Environmental Mutagen Societies (IAEMS). The IAEMS is the coordinating body for Environmental Mutagen Societies worldwide; global membership totals some 10,000.

In other professional activity, he is currently a member of three National Research Council committees. At the end of this year he will complete a two-year term on the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education (CUSE), a standing committee of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education at the National Research Council. This fall, he was named to a new committee formed to examine undergraduate biology education, "Undergraduate Biology Education to Prepare Research Scientists for the 21st Century." Earlier this year, he was named to the Board on the Life Sciences of the National Research Council. He is the only representative of a liberal arts college on the board, which examines all aspects of the life sciences. The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Gentile is also a member of the Executive Committee of "Project Kaleidoscope," a Washington, D.C.-based initiative focusing on identifying and promoting effective models for undergraduate mathematics and science education, and he is also a member of the Board of Governors for the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research.

Gentile is a consultant for the National Institutes of Health Sciences, and is serving, at the appointment of Governor John Engler, on Michigan's State Hazardous Site Assessment Committee. He is a consultant with the EPA's Office on Substances/Test Rules Development Branch, and a past consultant to the EPA's Science Advisory Board. He is also a scientific program advisor to the Murdock Trust in Vancouver, Wash., the Research Corporation in Tucson, Ariz., and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation in Washington, D.C.

He has received a variety of national and international honors, including the EMS Service Recognition Award (1994), the EMS Student Educator of the Year Award (1998), the Cancer Research Medallion Award of the National Cancer Institute of Japan (1997) and the Scientific Recognition Medal of Provincia Di Pisa, Italy (1995).

He received his bachelor's degree in biology/chemistry from St. Mary's University in 1968, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Illinois State University in 1970 and 1974. The Illinois State University Alumni Association presented him with an Alumni Achievement Award in 1995.