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NIEHS's Devereux Retires After 33 Years

By Colleen Chandler

Thirty-three and a half years. That's how much time she officially put in at NIEHS. But more often than not, Teddy Devereux was at work early and stayed late. The real question is: will she know what to do with herself now that she has retired?

Teddy Devereux
Devereux, whose real name is Theodora, started her career at NIEHS in 1971, shortly after she completed her master's degree at Duke University. The New York native came to Duke for her undergrad studies, but stayed for a master's. She applied to NIEHS in nearby Research Triangle Park just before she finished her degree. She landed a job, and quickly became accustomed to the independence and freedom offered. She was encouraged to develop her own projects. In 1986, she began working to identify critical target genes and gene alterations that may be involved in chemical carcinogenesis. In 1993, she became principal investigator in the molecular toxicology group within the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis. Among her career highlights: the isolation of clara cells in the lung. Her lab has identified a likely candidate gene for mouse lung-cancer susceptibility on chromosome 18. The group has collaborated with many other labs at NIEHS and has worked closely with the National Toxicology Program, validating results for 2-year liver bioassays.

Many times over, Devereux has returned the mentoring she received at Duke and in her early years at NIEHS. She served on the science education committee, helping to direct the continuing education of scientists and technicians at NIEHS. "Her achievements are a testament to the success of women in science and she continues to encourage young men and women to aspire to great heights in science," said the mini-symposium brochure put together by her lab staff.

Devereux has mentored more than 50 students and postdocs, a number of whom returned to NIEHS recently for a mini-symposium that focused on Devereux's accomplishments. Some of those former students are now colleagues, who gave her some good-natured ribbing. Among the accusations tossed around were that Devereux was primarily responsible for the explosion in the number of "Oh-yes-I-can, get-outta-my-way, smart aleck, Devereux-inspired women" populating the fourth floor Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis area. When faced with the accusation, Devereux merely grinned. Another scientist Devereux mentored recalled what he described as the famous "Teddy grin. If she grins when trying to talk you into something, look out," he said.

Bob Maronpot, a colleague in the Laboratory of Experimental Pathology, said Devereux is the "paragon of the collaborator." He said her retirement will leave a big hole at NIEHS.

However, Devereux doesn't plan to let retirement keep her away from the institute. She still has use of her office, and is finishing three manuscripts for publication. She just won't spend as much time at work. "I don't really see it as closing the door at NIEHS. I have a feeling my ghost is going to be around one way or another," she said. "I am one of the most fortunate people to have found my niche and be able to do what I love here."

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