2010 Outstanding Leadership Award: Carmel Mothersill

Prior to 2003 Dr Mothersill ran the Radiation and Environmental Science Centre at the Dublin Institute of Technology, a centre which she and her husband Dr Seymour founded and developed. At the time of moving to Canada the centre had trained over 30 PhD students in radiobiology and was at the forefront of research in the low dose radiobiology field. Following the offer of a Canada Research Chair at McMaster University, Dr Mothersill developed a new laboratory and now has a program of research mainly centered around the implications of low dose effects of radiation in the environment. She continues to train graduate students and develop new courses in radiation biology and radioecology, including the first ever on-site course at the Chernobyl Reactor last year where 24 students from all areas of science, social science and engineering got to see the inside of the reactor and heard lectures from the Ukrainian and Belorussian scientists working there and in Gomel. Dr Mothersill’s research is mainly concerned with the role bystander effects play in enabling organisms to respond to and adapt to stressors such as radiation in the environment. Bystander effects result from signaling mechanisms, which transmit information concerning stressors to cells, tissues and organisms, which have not (yet) been exposed. Recipients induce responses, which appear to be protective. The Dublin laboratory and later the McMaster laboratory have pioneered this field and most recently showed that whole organisms can emit and respond to these signals. These findings call into question the current LNT models used in risk assessment and clearly demonstrate much more complex but exquisitely sensitive mechanisms, which clearly evolved to deal with environmental changes. Dr Mothersill has organized major conferences including an ICRR in 1999 and secured the 4th International Congress on Radioecology and Environmental Radioactivity for Canada for 2011.  She also ran a NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Multiple Stressors in Belarus and several smaller conferences and workshops. She was awarded an honorary DSc by Heriot Watt University in Scotland, the Irish Academy of Medicine’s St Luke’s Lecture the Timofeev-Ressovsky medal by the Russian Academy of Sciences.