First Abelson Lecturer is Authority on DNA Cancer Link

PULLMAN, Wash. — The first Washington State University Abelson Family
Lecture will be delivered by Phil Hanawalt, an authority on DNA repair in
human cells and its links to cancer. His presentation, “DNA Repair and
Cancer,” is slated for 8 p.m. March 23 in Webster Physical Science Building,
Room 16.

Hanawalt, the Howard H. and Jessie T. Watkins University Professor of
Biological Sciences at Stanford University, is well known for work describing
how DNA is repaired after it has been damaged by UV light or chemicals. His
work has important implications on how genetic damage caused by
environmental factors may lead to cancer.

The Abelson Family Lecture was recently created by a gift from John Abelson,
who graduated from WSU in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in physics.
Abelson earned a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1965 and now
serves as the George Beadle Professor of Biology at the California Institute of
Technology, where he was also biology chair. He was elected to the National
Academy of Sciences in 1985 and serves on the board of directors of Agouron,
a pharmaceutical company that is developing products for treatment of HIV
infection, cancer and other serious diseases.

Abelson created the lecture endowment in honor of members of his family,
many of whom are closely linked to WSU. The WSU connection began with
his grandparents, whose homestead is now the site of Fulmer Hall.

Those he recognized include his uncle and aunt, Phil ’33 and Neva Abelson
’34, both outstanding WSU sciences graduates. Phil Abelson became a
long-time editor of Science magazine and received the Presidential National
Medal of Science and the Vannevar Bush Lifetime Achievement Award. Neva
Abelson was the first woman to graduate from Johns Hopkins Medical School
and went on to become co-developer of the first test for Rh factor in blood.

John Abelson also recognized his brother, LeRoy Abelson ’65, and his father,
the late Harold Abelson ’34, both WSU engineering graduates and highly
respected professional civil engineers. He is joined in the gift by his wife,
Christine Guthrie, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco,
and also a member of the National Academy of Science.

Hanawalt is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the
American Academy of Microbiology. He has received many honors for his
work, including two National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator
Awards, and awards from the Photochemical Society and the Environmental
Mutagen Society. He is on the editorial board of Science magazine and has
served as an editor of DNA Repair (Mutation Research), Cancer Research,
Environmental Health Perspectives, Molecular Carcinogenesis and
Biotechniques. He has played an important role in the development of the field
of DNA repair by organizing scientific meetings in the United States and