Former NIEHS senior science advisor Dr. Paul Nettesheim passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 16. His contributions to NIEHS were numerous and significant. He came to the institute in 1977 and served as head of the Laboratory of Pulmonary Pathobiology. He stepped up to serve as acting scientific director from 2000 to 2001, then as senior science advisor to the institute director from 2001 until he retired in 2003.
A pulmonary biologist, Nettesheim was internationally recognized. In 2002, he received the Humboldt Research Award, a lifetime career achievement award for his outstanding contributions to science. “Paul made seminal contributions to our understanding of the adverse effects of environmental agents on the respiratory system, particularly abnormal growth in the airways induced by carcinogens, as well as the process of differentiation of airway epithelial cells,” said Dr. Anton Jetten, head of the NIEHS Immunity, Inflammation and Disease Laboratory.
One of Nettesheim’s important achievements was the development of new experimental models for studying cell behavior, which enabled better assessment of environmental risks to health and supported the development of novel therapies. The more than 220 scientific papers he published illustrated consistent cutting-edge thinking; many of his publications came from his work at NIEHS.
Highly regarded by national and international colleagues for his objectivity, scientific knowledge and research excellence, Nettesheim led productive teams of scientists and mentored and trained numerous researchers who now carry on his work to improve human health.
Nettesheim was born 82 years ago in Cologne, Germany, and completed his studies at the University of Bonn. The family moved to Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 1962, where he joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a research biologist. He served there as head of the respiratory carcinogenesis group from 1969 to 1977.
Nettesheim is survived by his wife, Barbara, and sons Ulrich of Los Angeles, Klaus of Durham, N.C., and Christoph of Ventura, Calif., and nine grandchildren.