North Central College - Naperville, IL

Distinguished alumni, cancer researchers are Rall keynote speakers

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Dr. Doris Mangiaracina Benbrook, Class of 1981
Dr. Doris Mangiaracina Benbrook, Class of 1981

May 5, 2011—Each spring, North Central College celebrates and recognizes top student scholars and their academic achievements with a daylong event called Honors Day. The 2011 Honors Day takes place Tuesday, May 17, and includes the 14th annual Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research in the morning and the 35th annual Honors Convocation in the afternoon.

To kick off the day’s events, the Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research will feature two distinguished visiting scholars—who are North Central alumni, noted professors and cancer researchers—as keynote speakers at 8:30 a.m. in Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave.

Their keynote address is titled “Collaboration in Drug Discovery and Translation to Clinical Trials” and is free and open to the campus and local community.  

Dr. K. Darrell Berlin, Class of 1955, and Dr. Doris Mangiaracina Benbrook, Class of 1981, were invited to give this year’s address because of their high achievements and collaborative work on cancer research, and to honor North Central’s Sesquicentennial celebration.

Berlin is Regents Professor of Chemistry at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Among his research interests are anticancer agents and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The research of Berlin and his group has brought more than $5.5 million to OSU in research funding. He has received numerous honors and awards for his teaching and research accomplishments, including the Sigma Xi Award in Research at OSU, Oklahoma Scientist of the Year, Oklahoma Chemist of the Year, Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in College/University Teaching by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, and Regents Distinguished Research Award from the Oklahoma State University Board of Regents. He holds 27 patents and his research group has published more than 320 papers.

Berlin was honored by North Central in 2008 with an Outstanding Alumnus Award. After his graduation with a degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics from North Central, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Prior to joining OSU in 1960, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Florida.

Benbrook is professor and director of research and chair in gynecologic oncology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She collaborates with Berlin at OSU on preventative cancer drugs. Her research is focused on developing a nontoxic pill that would prevent certain cancers and prolong disease-free survival after cancer treatments. An especially rewarding outcome would be the impact of a low-cost pill on women in developing countries where cancer incidence and death rates are very high. Benbrook has received support from the National Cancer Institute for a preclinical trial of a drug that kills cancer cells. The compounds for the drugs she researches have been synthesized by Berlin.

Benbrook was honored in 2004 as Oklahoma Scientist of the Year and has served on national and international committees to develop and review basic science and clinical protocols for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. She carried a double major in biology and chemistry at North Central College, followed by a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Loyola University. Benbrook completed a postdoctoral fellowship at La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation in California and at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London.

To view the schedule of Honors Day activities visit Abstracts for the poster and oral presentations for the symposium are posted online.