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A Fitting Tribute to Colin Chignell

By Eddy Ball
August 2010

Colin Chignell, Ph.D.
Following his accidental death in the ocean off Myrtle Beach, S.C., Chignell was remembered fondly by his many friends and colleagues. "Colin displayed great versatility in his work, always welcoming new collaborators and always adapting to or leading the way to new scientific developments," wrote Roberts and co-authors in a November 2008 tribute in ASP News, a publication of the American Society of Photobiology. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

As part of its July issue, the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology honored NIEHS Principal Investigator Colin Chignell, Ph.D., with a "Symposium in Print: Photobiology of the Skin and Eye in Memory of Colin F. Chignell." Chignell was the longtime chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics at NIEHS and subsequently a member of the Laboratory of Pharmacology until his unexpected death on July 16, 2008 (see story (

The special section of the issue ( Exit NIEHS includes an introduction by four of Chignell's long-time friends and colleagues, including Joan Roberts, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in the Department of Natural Sciences at Fordham University, and Yu-Ying He, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. Roberts was a longtime faculty member in the Summer of Discovery Program with Chignell, and He was his postdoctoral fellow at NIEHS from 2003-2008. Roberts is working this summer as special volunteer in the NIEHS Free Radical Metabolism Group.

The "Symposium in Print" includes a series of ten papers on topics with strong links to Chignell's major research interests in skin and eye photochemistry and photobiology, authored by his former colleagues and students at NIEHS and elsewhere. Chignell is an author on five of the papers, including ones written with Roberts, He, and NIEHS Principal Investigator Ron Mason, Ph.D.

"The papers presented are a tribute to the extraordinarily rich interdisciplinary role Colin played during his scientific lifetime and to the wonderful example he set as a caring and thoughtful person," Roberts and her coauthors wrote in their introduction.

In his announcement to NIEHS employees, Acting Scientific Director John Pritchard, Ph.D., thanked Roberts for her leadership in organizing the special issue and reflected on the legacy of his longtime friend and colleague. "He was a leader in the fields of photobiology and phototoxicity, particularly as light or UV radiation impacted the skin and eyes," Pritchard wrote. "This issue is a fitting reminder of all he accomplished and how much we miss his scientific expertise and counsel."

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