Yon Rojanasakul has spent the past decade doing research that could lead to more effective drugs to treat cancer.
Charles Jaffé combines chemistry, physics and mathematics to develop a better understanding of the solar system.
For their efforts, Rojanasakul, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy, and Jaffé, a chemistry professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, are the recipients of this years Benedum Distinguished Scholar awardsthe Universitys premier research honor. The award includes $5,000 and recognition during the Honors Convocation at 7 p.m. May 15 at the Creative Arts Center as part of WVU s 140th Commencement activities.
This years Benedum Distinguished Scholars exemplify the range of research going on at WVU ,said C.B. Wilson, associate provost for academic personnel.Drs. Rojanasakul and Jaffé have made significant discoveries in their research areas, and the fields of health sciences, chemistry and astrophysics are reaping the rewards.”
Rojanasakul, whose award is in the biosciences and health sciences category, studies cell death and its relation to cancer. His work has identified key molecular targets in cancer cell death and biological barriers that make some cancer cells resistant to drugs, paving the way for the development of new treatments.
He is also at the forefront of research into the relationship between heavy metal exposure and cancerwork that has profound impact on understanding the underlying causes of diseases such as lung cancer, AIDS and neurodegenerative disorders.
His focus on treating cancer at the cell level was a natural progression from his earlier research on cell death, said Rojanasakul, who joined the School of Pharmacys Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1989.
His research not only adds to the basic understanding about cell death, why some cancer cells are resistant to drugs and why certain metals cause cancers, but also importantly sets the stage for the development of new anticancer therapeutic agents,Patrick Callery, department chair, says in his nomination letter.
Rojanasakul also holds a faculty position in the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU s Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center. In addition, he has been a visiting scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown and the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif.; a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh; and an adjunct professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and Harbin (China) Medical University.
He has published more than 130 research articles in professional journals and is a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
Born in Bangkok, Rojanasakul earned a bachelors degree in pharmacy from Mahidol University, a masters degree pharmaceutics from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jaffé, whose award is in the physical sciences and technology category, has refined a 70-year-old chemical theory to help predict events in outer space.
He was part of a research team that combined transition state theorywhich establishes a brief stage in chemical reactionsand modern chaos theory to predict the rate at which asteroids would escape Marsorbit in a computer-based simulation. Their workwhich made the cover of the July 2, 2002, issue of Physical Review Letterscould one day help scientists accurately foretell if an asteroid or comet is headed for Earth.
Jaffé, who joined WVU s C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry in 1984, has also used complex mathematical theories in his research. He has had a career-long fascination with chaos theory, which describes how certain evolving systems may become sensitive to changes in their initial conditions. He has also done research on fractals, rough geometric shapes that can be split into smaller copies of the whole.
Charlie has made deep and lasting contributions to the field,Eric Heller, a chemistry and physics professor at Harvard University, says in a letter supporting Jaffés nomination.His advances in transition state theory, one of the oldest and most important theoretical constructs in chemistry, are fundamental discoveries. They are not tricks, flavors, topic du jour that so dominate most of the literature, especially in theoretical chemistry. They are discoveries.
Jaffé is a fellow of the American Physical Society, has lectured in many countries and written numerous research articles for professional journals. He has also been an American Society of Engineering Education/NASA summer faculty fellow at California Institute of Technology and a visiting associate professor at the Autonomous University in Madrid.
Raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and Cincinnati, he earned a bachelors degree in physics from Antioch College and a doctorate in chemical physics from the University of Colorado.
As Benedum Distinguished Scholars, Rojanasakul and Jaffé will give public lectures related to their research. Rojanasakul will lecture at 4 p.m. March 31 in Room 1905 of the Health Sciences Center. His talk is titledHow Cancer Cells Say NO to Cell Death?Jaffé will give his talk,The Theory of Chemical Reactions Applied to Celestial Mechanics or How, on the Earth, Did That Piece of Mars End Up Here?at 4:30 p.m. April 14 in the Mountainlair Rhododendron Room.
The Benedum and Distinguished Professors of WVU established the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Awards in 1985-86 to honor and reward faculty for excellence in research and scholarship. The program is funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and coordinated by the Office of Academic Affairs and Research.