The Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) is pleased to announce that Ms. Alicia
R. Timme-Laragy of Duke University is the recipient of the ninth annual Karen Wetterhahn
Memorial Award. The award was presented to Ms. Timme-Laragy on 12 December 2006 at
the SBRP Annual Meeting in San Diego, California.
The SBRP presents this annual award to an outstanding scholar to pay tribute to the
life and scientific accomplishments of Dr. Karen E. Wetterhahn, former director of
the SBRP at Dartmouth College. Dr. Wetterhahn, Professor of Chemistry and the Albert
Bradley Third Century Professor in the Sciences at Dartmouth College, died 8 June
1997 at age 48. Her death was the result of dimethylmercury poisoning caused by the
accidental spill of a few drops of the chemical on her latex glove–covered hand. Dr.
Wetterhahn was an established authority on the effects of heavy metals on biological
systems as well as a dedicated teacher and mentor. She played an integral role in
the administration of the sciences at Dartmouth and co-founded Dartmouth’s Women in
Science Project (WISP), which is aimed at increasing the number of women majoring
and taking courses in the sciences, including mathematics and engineering.
Ms. Timme-Laragy is a cum laude graduate of the Franklin & Marshall College, where
she earned a B.A. in Biology and Anthropology and minored in Environmental Studies.
She is in the fifth year of a Ph.D. program at Duke University, Nicholas School of
the Environment and Earth Sciences, Integrated Toxicology Program, under the guidance
of Dr. Richard T. Di Giulio. Ms. Timme-Laragy’s research uses a zebrafish embryo model
to understand how certain combinations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) greatly
increase toxicity over what is predicted from studies of single PAH. Her research
is elucidating mechanisms underlying the very marked, and totally surprising, synergy
that has been previously observed between PAHs that act as AHR (aryl hydrocarbon receptor)
agonists and PAHs that act as CYP1A (cytochrome P450 1A) inhibitors on cardiovascular
development in zebrafish embryos. According to Di Giulio, “this synergy has very important
implications for risk assessments of PAHs, as currently risk estimates of this chemical
class employ an additive model for summing hazards posed by individual compounds.”
Understanding the mechanistic basis for this synergy will aid in a more accurate assessment
of toxicity that can then be applied to other toxicants with similar mechanisms of
action, and will contribute to predictive models for PAH mixtures, the environmental
The NIEHS congratulates Ms. Timme-Laragy on her research accomplishments and wishes
her continued success in her scientific career.