Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., Robert A. Welch Professor and director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) Institute of Biosciences and Technology, has been appointed a University Distinguished Professor. The title is the highest faculty honor bestowed by Texas A&M University.

Walker joined the TAMHSC faculty in 2011. She is a distinguished molecular biologist, who has made seminal contributions to the understanding of the role of gene-environment interactions in the human disease. She was the first to identify tumor suppressor genes as the target for chemical carcinogens, and the first to reveal a mechanism by which environmental exposures alter the epigenome to increase cancer risk. Walker was also vital in the development of an animal model for the most important gynecologic disease of women, and most recently, in the elucidation of a new pathway controlling peroxisome homeostasis.

As the Director of the Texas A&M IBT, Walker has advanced the research environment across the university, and extended the Texas A&M impact in the Texas Medical Center. Her notable achievements include leading Texas A&M’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center of Excellence in Environmental Health Science known as the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR); bringing the TAMHSC into the Gulf Coast Consortium; recruiting world-class faculty who, among other initiatives, established the Texas Screening Alliance for Cancer Therapeutics (TxSACT) and a “Field-to-Clinic” initiative in disease prevention at the IBT; shepherding the development of two centers of research excellence in which faculty from across The Texas A&M System now participate, CTEHR and Texas OneGulf, the Texas RESTORE Act center for gulf research.

Prior to her arrival at Texas A&M, Walker held academic positions at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. She has a Ph.D. in cell biology from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and completed postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health.

Walker is also the recipient of numerous awards including the Cozzarelli Prize in Biological Sciences from the National Academy of Sciences and Sigma Xi Outstanding Distinguished Scientist Award from Texas A&M. Most recently, she received the 2016 Society of Toxicology Leading Edge in Basic Science Award, and was named a 2015 “Women on the Move” award recipient by Texas Executive Women. She is also past-president of both the 7,000-member Society of Toxicology and Women in Cancer Research of the American Association for Cancer Research, and is an elected member of the Academy of Toxicology Sciences and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

— Dominic Hernandez

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