Head of University of Chicago Biology Department, Anthony P. Mahowald, PhD Helps Upgrade Leo High School Science Programs 2007

Anthony P. Mahowald, Ph.D.
Louis Block Professor and Chairman
Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
The University of Chicago

Thanks to our own Mr. Bill Koloseike and Mr. George Sullivan of the Jesuit Volunteer Program the young men of Leo High School will be tutored by one of the preeminent scholars in the field of Molecular Genetics.

Wait until you guys read this – Professor Mahowald is now retooling the Leo High School Science Programs!

This is an ‘excerpt’ from his biography.

In 1982 Mahowald moved to Cleveland to become Chair of the Department of Developmental Genetics and Anatomy at Case Western Reserve University, and in 1988 he became Chair of the newly formed Department of Genetics. During his eight years in Cleveland, Mahowald continued to study many mutations derived from the grandchild less screen which had led to the discovery of a number of maternal effects of female sterile mutations. From this work, Mahowald says, we recognized that there were two classes of female sterile loci: those with many alleles, such as yolkless and gastrulation defective, and loci with only one or at most two alleles.

The analysis of loci with rare female sterile alleles, with the help of a new postdoctoral fellow, Norbert Perrimon, and a visiting scientist from Ball State, Lee Engstrom, led to the discovery of a major new set of genes whose role is essential in patterning of the embryo. As many as 70% of the class of essential genes are also required during oogenesis. Currently Mahowald s work concentrates on exploring the genetic and molecular basis for germ line sex determination. We work on the molecular analysis of ovo and its homolog in mice and on the somatic cells that we believe play a major role in controlling expression of sex-lethal in the germline.

Since 1990, Mahowald has served as Louis Block Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago, and Chair of the Committee on Developmental Biology. While he claims he has been Chairman too long (16 years counting Case Western and Chicago combined), he sees it as a way of helping others, which brings a lot of pleasure to the complex life of joining chairmanship with his research and teaching. He admits that it s easier to teach biology lecture and laboratory courses now that he has graduate teaching assistants to help, compared to his early years when there was little help. Mahowald says, teaching excites me because I enjoy explaining development to students. Mahowald’s colleague Elaine Fuchs says of Mahowald, Tony s background as a Jesuit priest, coupled with his marriage to a feminist and of course his stature in the scientific community, were exactly the credentials needed to successfully chair a department of talented, outspoken and diverse scientists, with a large number of dynamic and confident women. I don t think anyone in the department ever questions Tony s integrity or his motives: he always tries to do what he feels is right and he always acts in a humble and unselfish manner. He genuinely enjoys science and the scientific community and this is always reflected through his actions. Such traits are very rare in leadership, and we are extremely fortunate to have him as our Chair.

Mahowalds move to Cleveland was principally motivated by the chance for him and his wife, Mary, to work together on the same campus. In Indiana, he had worked in Bloomington and she was at the Indianapolis campus, more than an hour s drive away. They have found the opportunity to work on the same campus again at the University of Chicago, where Mary is a professor in the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and the College. Most of her students are doctors who come for a year s fellowship and take her course in Foundations of Bioethics.

The Mahowalds have three children: Maureen, the eldest, has just finished her master s degree in molecular biology at Princeton and is taking a year off to figure out what she wants to do next. Their second daughter, Lisa, finished her undergraduate work in atmospheric physics at Harvard last year, and has been working this year in Chicago at a law clinic for the disabled; she will start Law School at New York University in the fall and plans to focus on public service law. The Mahowalds son, Mike, is a biology major at Swarthmore College, now taking the spring semester of his junior year to work in the rain forest in Costa Rica. The Mahowalds claim to be surprised but pleased that their children have all studied science.

Welcome to the Leo Family Tony!

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