To say that Gayle Woloschak, 59, originally from Liberty but now living in Chicago, is a busy person is a severe understatement. Her own father, Michael Woloschak, 91, even has a hard time trying to keep up with her.
"She's fantastic," Michael Woloschak said. "I try to visualize all that she does. She just came back from Europe and she visited three countries. Sometimes I can't keep up with her and what she's lecturing on."
Woloschak works as a professor at Northwestern University in the Feinburg School of Medicine in the Department of Radiation Oncology and the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.
Tribune Chronicle photo illustration / Chuck Rogers
A selection of publications by Liberty native and YSU?graduate Gayle Woloschak is shown. Woloschak, who studies radiation at Northwestern University, has consulted with NASA, the United Nations and the European Union.
"I do cancer research mostly," Woloschak said. "So we are looking for better ways to see cancer, detect it and also better ways to cure it."
She has been there for around 10 years now. Before Northwestern, she was at Argonne National Laboratory for 15 years. Woloschak has been an accomplished member of her field for 25 years, but her interest in science came gradually.
After graduating high school, she chose to go to Youngstown State University.
"When I left high school, I was going to go to college to become a teacher or do something with literature but when I went to the university, I loved my science classes and that is when I got convinced," she said.
She graduated summa cum laude in biological sciences and earned her doctorate degree in medical sciences with a focus in microbiology from the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.
Now, in addition to teaching and research at Northwestern, Woloschak also is an adviser to some of her students.
"I teach mostly residents," Woloschak said. "It's really one big class that we go all year round with. It's a course on radiobiology for radiation oncology residents, people that are training to become radiation oncology doctors. I have graduate students, PhD students in the lab. Right now, we have five graduate students that are working on their Ph.D., and three who are working on their master's (degrees)."
Along with teaching, she works with many different organizations. About a month ago, Woloschak was asked by the State Department to represent the U.S. in the United Nations on a committee to study the effects of atomic radiation. This committee is located in Vienna, Austria. Two other organizations that wanted her help are NASA and the European Union.
"I'm trained as a radiation biologist, so I specialize in what radiation does to your body when exposed, and NASA is very interested in radiation because, of course, the astronauts get exposed to radiation in space," Woloschak said. "So I chair a committee for NASA to look at the effects of radiation when you're in space. It's a really different kind of radiation in space than it is on Earth. So we don't know a lot about its effects I'm on an advisory committee for an EU project called STORE. My lab currently has the largest archive of tissues from animals that have been radiated in the world. The EU is having a project to store animal tissues so they asked me to be on their committee to advise them.
"Science is very international now, so I'm on a lot of international committees. I work with a lot of different groups. So I knew most of the people in the EU project before I even started working with them. I had already had some projects that involved people from Germany and people from Finland. I have a faculty appointment in Alexandria, Japan and China."
Tanja Paunesku serves as one of Woloschak's colleagues as a research associate professor at Northwestern in the department of radiation oncology.
"I have known Gayle now for a really, really long time," Paunesku said. "I met her for the first time in 1991 in Argonne National Laboratory and already at that time she was working on radiation research and her primary interest in radiation biology has continued from before those days through today. In 2002, we moved from Argonne National Laboratory to Northwestern University, and we continued to work together on radiation biology.
"She is a really wonderful person and great scientist. She has always tried to be an important member of the larger scientific community by introducing radiation biology to people who are not in the radiation field and also to apply the knowledge from other areas of biology to radiation biology too. She has been able to always see the big picture and to get the good overview of the entire field and more than that."
Her father may have a hard time trying to keep up with her, but one thing is for sure, he isn't afraid to ask his daughter questions about her job.
"I just ask and she is glad to answer them," Michael Woloschak said. "She's glad to answer questions and talk. She's great at explaining what she does and where she goes and I love to hear about it."