Colorado State Professor Wins International Award for Radiation Studies

Joel S. Bedford, professor of radiological health sciences at Colorado State University, has won the Failla Award from the Radiation Research Society.

The award is given to an outstanding member of the radiation research community in recognition of significant contributions to radiation research. Winners are chosen from the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology and medicine.

The prestigious award, first presented in 1962, was issued by the Radiation Research Society awards and honors committee and caught Bedford by surprise, he said.

The award includes a gold medal and $1,000 prize. The Radiation Research Society also will pay travel expenses to send Bedford and his wife to Dublin in July, where he’ll deliver an address on his work at the 11th International Congress of Radiation Research.

A faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences since 1975, Bedford studies how radiation affects cells. Ionizing radiation can kill cells (as in the mechanism used to destroy tumors through radiation therapy) or can produce heritable changes in cells that are not killed.

His research has focused on how ionizing radiation can produce mutations and aberrations in chromosomes, on new ways to measure these aberrations, on the genetic control of radiosensitivity and on radiation-induced genetic instability.

Mutations in any one of many genes can greatly increase the sensitivity of organisms, including humans, to radiation. One example, according to Bedford, is the A-T gene. People with a mutation in both the paternal and maternal copies of that gene are very sensitive to radiation, and nearly all get cancer. People with a mutation in only one copy but not the other can have a much higher risk of cancer.

"Perhaps our most rewarding studies have been on the chromosomal basis for radiosensitivity and how it is controlled by this and other genes of this kind," Bedford said.

Bedford earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Colorado in 1961 and 1963 and hisdoctorate from Oxford University in England in 1966.

The Failla Award was established in 1962 in honor of Gioacchino Failla, a founder and second president of the Radiation Research Society. Bedford was the organization’s 38th president in 1990.