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Friends and Colleagues Remember Pioneering Woman Scientist

By Eddy Ball
January 2010

Carol Ann Masters Schiller,  Ph.D., J.D., D.A.B.T.
Biochemist, toxicologist, policy advisor, and attorney Carol Schiller (Photo courtesy of Marvin Schiller)

Former NIEHS investigator and environmental attorney Carol Ann Masters Schiller, Ph.D., J.D., D.A.B.T., died Dec. 5 in Raleigh at age 68, following a seven-year battle with the rare neurological disease progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)( Exit NIEHS. Surviving are her husband Marvin Schiller, J.D., Ph.D., a son and daughter, and three grandchildren, all of Raleigh.

When she learned of Schiller's death, NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., echoed the sentiments of Schiller's friends and colleagues at NIEHS. "Carol was a leader in the field of toxicology and environmental health, marrying her scientific excellence with her legal expertise," Birnbaum observed. "She was really not only the first, but also one of a kind."

Schiller was the first woman to receive tenure in the intramural research program at NIEHS

In the course of her work at NIEHS in the Laboratory of Organ Function and Toxicology, Schiller performed seminal research( Exit NIEHS on dioxin, a highly toxic component of Agent Orange. As recently as July 2009, a study( Exit NIEHS on the effects of dioxin on vascular endothelial growth factor cited Schiller's 1984 findings( Exit NIEHS on dose-related effects of the chemical in mouse strains.

In recognition of her exemplary work, in 1977 she became the first woman scientist to achieve tenure at NIEHS, joining a handful of others in NIH and helping to pave the way for women scientists who would follow. She also served as an advocate for eliminating inequities in the hiring and promotion of women at NIEHS and NIH, in her role as coordinator of the Institute's Federal Women's Program.

Her interests took Schiller from the bench to the bar and beyond

Refusing to limit herself to the field of biochemistry, Schiller in 1984 completed a law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). She earned the respect of her professors, one of whom described her as a "Renaissance Woman."

A member of the American Society of Biochemists and Society for Toxicology (SOT) since 1979, Schiller gained board certification as a toxicologist in 1985. She also chaired the SOT Legislative Affairs and Regulatory Assistance Committee from 1988 to 1992.

Schiller devoted a lifetime to environmental science and justice

Prior to joining NIEHS in 1975, Schiller completed her Ph.D. at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1970. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto Department of Medicine and served as a research associate in the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition and the Department of Medicine at UNC-CH.

After earning her J.D. and certification as a toxicologist, Schiller received a Science and Engineering Congressional Fellowship from the American Chemical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science. She served as an advisor on environmental issues and legislation in the office of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg.

In 2004, Schiller retired as a partner in the Raleigh law firm Schiller & Schiller PLLC( Exit NIEHS. In 2008, the School of Medicine at UNC-CH established the Carol Masters Schiller Distinguished Scholar in Neurology in her honor.

Schiller leaves behind a legacy of scientific research

Schiller's family also established the Carol Masters Schiller PSP Research Fund at UNC-CH to receive memorial gifts in her honor. Similar in several ways to Parkinson's disease, PSP may have links to environmental factors, such as exposure to chemicals, which Schiller's research fund may help scientists better understand.

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