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Members of the academies

Several MU faculty serve the National Academies of Science.

Michael LeFevre

Michael LeFevre

Michael LeFevre, a nationally known expert on health policy, was elected in October 2011 as a member in the prestigious Institute of Medicine, the health branch of the National Academies of Science. LeFevre, BS EE ’75, MD ’79, MS ’84, chief medical information officer and professor of family and community medicine, is one of six National Academies members at MU. To learn more about his work at MU, check out the story on Page 14. Another National Academies member, Jim Birchler, is profiled on Page 22.

Fred Hawthorn

Fred Hawthorne

National Academy of Sciences member Fred Hawthorne began his career in the chemistry of boron about 50 years ago. Little information existed on the topic, but Hawthorne envisioned that boron might become the basis of products including pharmaceuticals and nanomaterials. He set himself the goal of using boron to cure common cancers in part through boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT). Results of Hawthorne’s early tests were positive years ago at the University of California, Los Angeles. But he lacked access to a source of neutrons and so could not conduct clinical trials. That changed in 2006 when Hawthorne retired from a successful academic career at UCLA and moved his research laboratory to Mizzou (and Missouri, his childhood home), lured by a rare range of resources that could help him complete his life’s work. Mizzou has a medical school, a veterinary college and the nation’s largest academic research reactor with a neutron beam line dedicated to BNCT.

R. Michael Roberts

R. Michael Roberts

A Curators Professor of Animal Sciences and a National Academy of Sciences member, Roberts is best known for his work on biochemical communication between embryo and mother in cattle and other livestock species. He is particularly interested in how the production of embryonic proteins leads to maintenance of pregnancy. Roberts and his colleagues have also developed a dependable and sensitive pregnancy test, which is now commercialized for use in the dairy industry. It’s based on a second embryonic protein that enters the mother’s bloodstream as the placenta first forms. Roberts’ current research uses stem cells to create functioning placental cell types of both livestock species and humans. In the human work, he focuses on the common disease of pregnancy known as preeclampsia, which includes a limited invasion of the placenta into the wall of the mother’s womb.

Jack Colwill

Jack Colwill

In 1972, when Professor Emeritus Jack Colwill launched MU’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, it was a new specialty he hoped would help alleviate the shortage of primary care physicians. Throughout his career, the Institute of Medicine member has sought solutions to physician-workforce issues. The shortage is especially great in rural areas. He is widely known for his decades-long efforts to expand the health care workforce. Colwill realized that in order for family medicine to make its mark, departments such as his had to train physicians not only as clinicians but also as teachers and researchers. He built a department that is nationally known for performing all three tasks at a high level. Along the way, he recruited IOM member Gerald Perkoff, who died Dec. 25, 2011.

Linda Randall

Linda Randall

National Academy of Sciences member and biochemistry professor Linda Randall studies how cells know the destination of their thousands of proteins and how those proteins are put in their proper places. She isolates the “machinery” from the bacterium Escherichia coli, taking it apart and putting it back together to learn what each part does. The process involves special channels through membrane barriers, motor components that provide energy to move the proteins and “chaperones” to guide them. The knowledge gained from bacteria can be applied to all cells, including those in humans. Randall and her research group once performed an interpretive dance to illustrate this process. The performance featured black leotards, theatrical lighting and “molecular music” generated on a synthesizer.

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