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Joanna Fowler

Imaging the Human Brain in Diseases of Addiction, Radiotracer Chemistry and Imaging the Human Brain

November 10, 2011

Dr. Joanna Fowler is the 2011 Thomas Lecturer as well as a Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitor. She has had a distinguished career in the development of radiotracers for positron emission tomography (PET) using organic synthesis and radiochemistry with applications for studying health and disease in human beings.

Dr. Fowler received her bachelor’s at the University of South Florida and her doctorate in organic synthesis at the University of Colorado. She then spent a year at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England before beginning her career at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where she is now a senior scientist and director of the Radiotracer Chemistry, Instrumentation and Biological Imaging Program.

The investigation of neurochemistry, neurological diseases and studying addiction using carbon-11 (11C) and fluorine-18 (18F) labeled radiotracers has been the focus of her work. Dr. Fowler has pioneered the utility of radiotracers in neurosciences and shown the power of PET imaging in documenting changes in regional brain metabolism and biochemical abnormalities associated with drug addiction and numerous neurological disorders not available through other means.

Dr. Fowler and her colleagues played key roles in the synthesis and development of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) for use in PET imaging. Today FDG is widely used clinically for diagnosing and investigating neurological and psychiatric diseases and in particular for identifying metastatic disease and following the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment.

The outstanding contributions and accomplishments of Dr. Fowler have been recognized through numerous awards including the Paul Aebersold Award from the Society of Nuclear Medicine (1997), the E. O. Lawrence Award from the Department of Energy (1997), the Francis P. Garvin-John M. Olin Medal from the American Chemical Society (1998) and the Glenn T. Seaborg Award in Nuclear Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (2002).

Dr. Fowler was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences in 2010. She was also awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science in 2010. Dr. Fowler has more than 350 peer-reviewed articles and holds numerous patents for radiolabeling procedures.

The training of new radiochemists has been one of her active pursuits and she has been an inspiration to many scientists and particularly to women scientists.