Superfund Research Program

Anne Spuches

Anne Spuches, Ph.D., of Dartmouth College was the recipient of the Seventh Annual Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, which was presented November 4, 2004 at the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Spuches began her college career as an art student, but was "completely hooked on chemistry" by the end of her sophomore year. She became very interested in understanding the biological processes of the human body at the chemical level and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Chemistry at Yale University.

From 2005 to 2007, Dr. Spuches was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College, working with Professor Dean E. Wilcox.  She participated in interdisciplinary studies addressing the environmental and human health effects of arsenic.  Applying her knowledge of inorganic chemistry to answer biological questions, she helped design experiments that will lead to a better understanding of how toxic metals interrupt cellular processes.  Specifically, Dr. Spuches used Isothermal Titration Calorimetry to quantify the interaction of arsenite and monomethyl arsenite with various thiols.  This information is fundamental to mapping the distribution and chemistry of arsenic in the cell, and may also help in the design of new, more effective, chelating agents for the treatment of arsenic poisoning.

In August 2007, Spuches became a tenure track assistant professor at East Carolina University in the department of chemistry. In this capacity she teaches inorganic and general chemistry courses, and continues to conduct research. Because Spuches' enthusiasm for her research is evident to the university and chemistry department at East Carolina, she received funds to set up a lab for both independent work, and to work with students who have an interest in bioinorganic chemistry and metal toxicology. Spuches maintains her love for learning, and the rush she feels as a teacher and mentor to her students.

Spuches' research showed that MMA is capable of displacing zinc from the DNA binding domain of the Glucocorticoid receptor, while inorganic arsenite causes no change. These results correlate to studies that show that MMA is more potent and toxic than inorganic arsenic. Her colleagues at Dartmouth College, who are SRP-funded, are also working on the full length protein, and have seen the same result. In the future, Spuches hopes to learn why MMA is so potent.

Spuches would like to thank the Dartmouth Scientific Community and the NIEHS for the training and the support she received. She is very grateful for winning the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, and says that it was "probably one of the best things that could [have] happened during my career…it felt wonderful to be recognized for my research and it also reminded me how important it is to be perseverant." Spuches hopes that she too will be able to inspire students to become great scientists.

The NIEHS congratulates Spuches on her research accomplishments and wishes her continued success in her scientific career.