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Veteran Researcher Colin Chignell Dies Unexpectedly

By Eddy Ball
August 2008

Colin Chignell, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator Colin Chignell (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS chemist Colin Chignell, Ph.D., died unexpectedly July 16 at age 70 in a drowning accident near North Myrtle Beach, S.C. while on a family vacation. An NIH employee for 42 years, Chignell was a principal investigator in the Photosensitization Reactions Group in the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology at the time of his death.

After receiving his Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of London in 1962, Chignell came to NIH as a visiting fellow. He served as one of the first National Institute of General Medical Sciences research associates in Pharmacology and Toxicology, a position he held from 1962 to 1965. Afterwards, he was a research pharmacologist in the Molecular Pharmacology Section, Pulmonary Branch, of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute prior to joining NIEHS in 1977.

Chignell published more than 220 peer-reviewed articles in leading biomedical journals, as well as more than 30 book chapters and reviews. Among his many honors, he was awarded the John J. Abel prize by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). He was recently named an associate editor of the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology.

Chignell was respected and well liked among his colleagues at NIEHS for his transformative research and collegial manner. In a tribute following his death, his long-time friend, colleague and supervisor at NIEHS, John Pritchard, Ph.D., praised Chignell for his work "at the forefront of a revolution in pharmacology that sought to understand the molecular basis of pharmacological activity." Pritchard, who is chief of the Laboratory of Pharmacology, also lauded Chignell's insights into photosensitization and free radical biology, as well as a managerial style Pritchard described as "always nurturing and supportive."

Trainees in his lab deeply appreciated Chignell's mastery of his field and the quality of his mentoring and advising. Chignell also had devoted colleagues in the academic community who returned year after year to work with him as research associates in the Summers of Discovery program - and felt that their experiences in his lab significantly impacted the quality of their teaching.

NIEHS Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., described the impact of Chignell's contributions to the Institute's mission. "Throughout his long and productive career, Colin was committed to the pursuit of scientific excellence, and he was an important part of the extraordinary research team here at NIEHS," Wilson said. "He will be missed by his many friends throughout the scientific community."

Many of Chignell's colleagues joined his family and friends at a funeral service held July 23 in Cary, N.C. Chignell is survived by his wife, Anke, two children and two grandchildren.

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