Boston College names Thomas Chiles the Deluca Professor of Biology

February 28th, 2012
Thomas Chiles has been named DeLuca Professor of Biology at Boston College. Chiles joined the university in 1992 and his research into lymphocyte metabolism and cancer biology is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and private foundations. Credit: Lee Pellegrini/Boston College
Boston College Biology Department Chairman Thomas Chiles has been named the Dr. Michael E. and Dr. Salvatore A. DeLuca Professor of Biology, the university announced today.

Chiles, whose research into lymphocyte metabolism and cancer biology is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and private foundations, said he was honored to receive the endowed professorship, which will support his ongoing research, particularly projects involving undergraduates.

"It is a privilege and an honor to be named the DeLuca Professor of Biology," said Chiles, who joined the BC faculty in 1992. "I'm grateful to the University and the DeLuca family for their ongoing support of my lab's work and the advancement of the biological sciences here at BC."

Chiles' research focuses on understanding how a subset of lymphocytes, also known as B cells, grow and survive. The white blood cells play a critical role in the infectious disease-fighting ability of the immune system. Chiles' research has focused on how B cells respond to their environment in order to produce antibodies and regulatory cytokines and are able to adapt to survive while fighting pathogens and infectious agents.

That research led Chiles into an area known as metabolomics to study how the B cell's metabolism changes in response to external cues such as pathogens in order to support its radical transformation to an antibody producing plasma cell. In collaboration with Chemistry Professor Mary Roberts, the research is also providing insight into how energy metabolism is altered in cancer cells to support their growth and survival.

Chiles is also part of a multi-disciplinary team of campus scientists developing the next generation of nanosensors capable of detecting minute amounts of cancer biomarkers that signal the presence of disease. Developed in collaboration with Biology Research Professor Dong Cai and Physics Professor Mike Naughton the biosensor could prove to be a valuable new diagnostic tool for the early detection of cancer.

The DeLuca professorship was established in 1996 through an endowment from Dr. Salvatore A. and Lucy DeLuca to honor the memory of their son, Michael, a 1986 BC graduate who died in 1991. BC Biology Prof. Marc A.T. Muskavitch was the inaugural holder of the chair.

David Quigley, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said the selection of Chiles to hold the DeLuca Professorship was fitting recognition of Chiles' work as a researcher, teacher, mentor and administrator.

"I can't think of a colleague more deserving of this honor than Thomas Chiles," said Quigley. "In his 20 years at Boston College, Thomas has devoted himself to his students and to the Biology Department. His committed leadership has been instrumental in the considerable progress we've been making in the natural sciences in recent years."

An avid runner, Chiles participates in at least one marathon a year, typically alternating between the New York City and Chicago marathons. He cites art and music as areas of interest outside of science. He and his wife, Sheryl, live in Norfolk with their three Portuguese water dogs.

A native Floridian who earned his doctorate from the College of Medicine at the University of Florida, Chiles grew up in Jacksonville's Northside neighborhood. He credited his high school advanced biology teacher, Clayton Linstram, with fueling his interest in studying biology at Florida. In Gainesville, professors Joseph Powell and Michael Kilberg added further support, he said.

"I've always been real curious about everything, but especially science," said Chiles. "There was a pilot light there and it caught and turned into a full blown furnace when I arrived on the University of Florida campus and I never looked back."

Provided by Boston College

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