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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Faculty Profile: Gayle Woloschak, PhD, Professor in the Departments of Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Cell & Developmental Biology

Gayle Woloschak, PhD

Gayle Woloschak, PhD, professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine Departments of Radiation Oncology, Radiology and Cell & Developmental Biology, is currently involved in nine federally funded research studies, acting as the principal investigator on five of them. A renowned scientist, Woloschak has published numerous articles in journals like Molecular Immunology, Nature Materials and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and has her name registered on a long list of inventions.

Woloschak has numerous faculty appointments at universities across the world. In addition to her roles at Northwestern, she is also a visiting scientist at the Bundeswehr Institute for Radiobiology in Munich, Germany, lecturer at Rosalind Franklin Medical School in North Chicago, Ill., and visiting professor at Alexandria University in Alexandria, Egypt.

Woloschak is co-leader of the Cancer Nano Materials Program in the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and is a member of the Center for Genetic Medicine, and the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity. What’s more, Woloschak is associate director of the Radiation Oncology Residency Program at Northwestern, and was the recipient of this program’s Teacher of the Year Award during the 2005-2006 academic year. Recently, Woloschak’s teaching abilities were recognized again when she was awarded the 2010 Rosalind Franklin University Outstanding College of Health Professions Educator Award.

What are your research interests?
My research interests relate to nanotechnology applications for imaging and therapy of cancer, as well as studies of radiation-induced tissue toxicities. My lab members and I are developing nanotools for use in cancer imaging and therapy and studies of radiation toxicity. We recently received funding to construct a bionanoprobe at the Life Sciences Collaborative Access Team (LS-CAT) beamline run by Northwestern at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory; this beamline will permit detection of materials 20-30 nm in size in cells.

What research projects are you currently pursuing?
For the nanotechnology project, we are engaged in trying to understand how titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles function in a cellular and tissue environment — how they are taken up by cells, how they localize to key sites in cells, and how they localize to given tissues in the body.

For the second project, we are trying to determine how low dose rate exposures are different from high dose rate radiation exposures in inducing genetic effects such as mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number.

What is the ultimate goal of your research?
The ultimate goal for the nanotechnology project is to develop a tool that can be used simultaneously to treat and image cancer. For the radiation project, we’d ultimately like to understand low dose and low dose rate effects.

What brought you to the Feinberg School of Medicine?
I moved to the Feinberg School of Medicine in 2002 after moving up the ranks during my 15 years at the Argonne National Laboratory. I liked the highly collaborative nature of the environment here at Northwestern as well as the faculty (now my colleagues) in radiation oncology.

What are some of the challenges you face?
My greatest challenge is shared by most scientists today: maintaining a well-funded lab that can train graduate and post-doctoral students in the fields. I also think that the interdisciplinary nature of research these days provides a challenge to each discipline. In the development phase of the new nanoprobe instrument at Argonne, we had been meeting with physicists there for over 10 years, and it took us two years to simply learn how to speak the same language!