posted October 16, 2003

James Gentile Elected AAAS Fellow

Dr. James Gentile of the Hope College faculty has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the highest honors that the association can bestow upon a scientist.

AAAS Fellows are elected for having made scientifically or socially distinguished efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications. Gentile, who is the dean for the natural sciences and is also the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Biology at Hope, is being recognized in the fields of genetic toxicology and mutagenesis, and for distinguished contributions to undergraduate science education. He will be officially honored at the AAAS meeting in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Feb. 14.

About 250 Fellows are elected annually, following a review process that begins with nomination to one of the association's 24 science sections.

"AAAS is the premier national organization for the advancement of science," said Dr. James Boelkins, who as provost at Hope is the college's chief academic officer. "Although there were about 50 Fellows elected in the biological sciences section last year, there was not one Fellow from an institution the size of Hope; the Fellows were all from major research universities and centers. Thus, Dr. Gentile's selection is all the more significant."

Boelkins called Gentile's selection well-earned. "It recognizes his many contributions to basic research and science education at Hope and to the broader science community," he said. "He is recognized nationally by his peers, and his many activities have helped bring national recognition to Hope's science programs. This award is not only a major compliment to Dr. Gentile, it is also a compliment to the many science educators at Hope and it will further enhance Hope's reputation for excellence. We congratulate Dr. Gentile on his selection and express thanks for his leadership in the sciences."

Founded in 1848, the AAAS represents the world's largest federation of scientists, and works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publications. With more than 138,000 members and 275 affiliated societies, the AAAS conducts many programs in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. The AAAS publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal "Science." The tradition of naming AAAS Fellows began in 1874.

A member of the Hope faculty since 1978, Gentile conducts research in environmental mutagenesis. He has authored or co-authored more than 160 scientific publications since 1974.

Over the years his research focus has been on the ways in which higher organisms metabolize environmental chemicals into compounds that cause mutations that result in chronic diseases such as cancer. His earlier work on agricultural chemicals resulted in a new mechanism for assessing the hazardous potential of these agents - one that has become a critical part of the process now used by the U.S. EPA. His current research efforts are focused on the ways through which organisms undergoing chronic stress -- such as from long-standing viral, bacterial or worm infections -- respond to exposure to carcinogens. The latter work has won international acclaim because of its potential impact on the health of individuals in developing countries, where such chronic diseases are prevalent.

He is currently serving a four-year term as president of the 10,000-member International Association of Environmental Mutagen Societies, and was president of the North American Environmental Mutagen Society from 1992 to 1994. He was also editor-in-chief of the international journal "Mutation Research" for more than 15 years.

Gentile was the only representative of a liberal arts college to serve on the hand-picked, 11-member team that wrote the report "Bio2010: Undergraduate Education to Prepare Biomedical Research Scientists," released by the National Academy of Sciences in the fall of 2002. As a follow-up to the report, he was appointed by the president of the National Academy to serve as co-chairperson, with Professor Bill Wood of the University of Colorado, of the newly developed "National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Biology," which will be held annually at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He will be a featured speaker on issues of science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in conjunction with the institute's 50th-year celebration.

He is the only representative of a liberal arts college serving as a member of the prestigious National Research Council Life Science Board, and a former member of the NRC Committee on Undergraduate Science Education (CUSE). 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. He is also a member of the Board of Governors for the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research.

He is a consultant for the National Institutes of Health Sciences, and is serving 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.

Gentile has received a variety of national and international honors. The North American Environmental Mutagen Society presented him with its Alexander Hollaender Award for excellence in research and education in March of 2001; the EMS Student Educator of the Year Award in 1998; and the EMS Service Recognition Award in 1994. He received the Cancer Research Medallion Award of the National Cancer Institute of Japan in 1997, and the Scientific Recognition Medal of Provincia Di Pisa, Italy, in 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.