James Dias: Distinguished Graduate in Science, Education, & Technology 2014
James Dias received a B.S. in Biology (1975) from Gonzaga University. Dr. Jerry Reeves mentored his M.S. (1997) and Ph.D. (1979) degrees in Animal Sciences/ Reproductive Physiology at WSU. Then, Jim received an NIH National Research Service Award to study protein purification with Leo Reichert. His postdoctoral studies led to stabilization of the gonadotropin receptor in detergent solution. This ultimately enabled the purification of the LH receptor and led to the cloning of the first full-length gonadotropin receptor.
Jim was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the Albany Medical College in 1982 and as Associate Professor in 1986–he received an NIH Research Career Development Award. He developed monoclonal antibodies against FSH as probes to map the surface accessibility of the hormone.
In 1988 Dr. Dias was recruited to the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health as a Research Scientist and Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences. There he applied molecular biology methods to perform site-directed mutagenesis of FSH. His lab used protein expression and purification methods to purify FSH and collaborated with a Wadsworth Center colleague to crystallize and determine the three dimensional structure of fully glycosylated FSH. This achievement established the Dias lab as a leader in the gonadotropin field, particularly on the topic of FSH structure and function.
Jim was Scientific Director of the Wadsworth Center Scientific Core Facilities for nine years then became chair of the Biomedical Sciences Department at the University of Albany’s School of Public Health (2002 -2009), in which he retains an academic appointment as a Full Professor. Jim currently serves as Vice President for Research (2009) of the University of Albany. Over the course of his career, he has mentored nineteen trainees and a host of undergraduate students.
Jim’s lifelong goal has been to exploit knowledge of FSH and its receptor to improve gonadotropin therapy and conversely to develop a non-steroidal contraceptive. Recent discoveries in his lab disrupt the current dogma of how gonadotropin receptors signal and may lead to therapy for estrogen-dependent breast cancer and endometriosis. His work has been published in over 100 research articles.
This award is given to Jim in recognition of his achievements in the field of reproductive physiology that have been aimed at the societal good of treating infertility and developing safer contraceptive methods.