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Top science professors honored

The Drake University Board of Trustees recently named Ronald Torry, Drake professor of pharmacology, and Maria Bohorquez, Drake associate professor of chemistry, Windsor Professors in Science.

A committee of their peers chose the pair for the honor based on their dedication to scientific research, enthusiasm in the classroom, mentorship and support of undergraduate student research.

Bohorquez places strong emphasis on communication and collaboration between schools and across departments within the Drake College of Arts and Sciences. She works with eight departments as director of Drake Undergraduate Science Collaborative Institute (DUSCI), a program she helped to organize in 2005. DUSCI includes a summer research program, a monthly science colloquium, a lecture series and an annual undergraduate research conference.

Bohorquez pursues a number of individual research projects. She’s fascinated with how tiny molecules interact with our cell membranes, she says. With another project, she studies methods of delivering pharmaceutical products into the body. At least four students assist her with her projects.

Torry teaches courses in pharmacology and cardiovascular diseases. He also has several ongoing research projects in the lab. One project examines the expression and function of a growth factor in heart cells during a heart attack. A second project, involving a long-term collaboration with his twin brother, examines the mechanisms by which a key gene is inhibited in the placenta of women suffering from preeclampsia. Torry works with as many as five undergraduate researchers in his laboratory.

Torry and his collaborators have received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association over the years.

Bohorquez and Torry will hold the title of Windsor Professor of Science indefinitely while at Drake and receive an additional annual stipend for five years.

The Windsor professorships are made possible by a generous gift from the late Mary Belle Hubbell Windsor, the former president of the Des Moines Children’s Home and granddaughter of the founder of Equitable Life Insurance Co. of Iowa.