William Noderer

Scientifically Setting the Limits on Radiation

By Stacy Kish on August 4, 2010

Fellow: William Noderer
Hometown: Macungie, PA
Undergrad: Lehigh University
Graduate school: Stanford University
Keywords: Department of Energy, Office of Science, Graduate Fellow program,  Radiation, Nuclear Power

William Noderer credits his high school chemistry experience with setting him on the career path that he is following today. “I chose chemical engineering because I had an excellent chemistry professor in high school.” Today, Noderer is using his skills as a chemical engineer to answer fundamental biological questions.

“Radiation exposure has been shown to cause cancer,” begins Noderer. “But tests that set exposure limits deal only with high-dose radiation.” Studies with high-dose radiation exposure are extrapolated to low-dose conditions to determine the cancer risk. Noderer plans to focus on how the biological response to low-dose radiation is fundamentally different from the response to high-dose radiation. “I am interested in setting scientific exposure limits for low-dose of radiation as well,” he said.

Noderer is a doctoral candidate at Stanford University and a DOE Office of Science Graduate Fellow. He wants to determine the effects of high- and low-dose radiation at the cellular level. To do this, he is working with a line of mouse cells that act as the most ‘realistic wild-type’ primary cells for this study.

Noderer explains, “This work is important to everyone, because it will determine the safe number of X-rays a person can receive in one year.” This work is also valuable for nuclear power plants. “There are strict guidelines in place as to how much ionizing radiation the employees at a power plant can be exposed to,” he explains. The results of this project will scientifically define low-dose exposure limits.  “I believe this work could be beneficial to policy makers to ensure that that the regulations in place are meaningful.”

Noderer concludes, “This fellowship frees me to try riskier and more daring projects than I would not have had the freedom to try before.”

Stacy Kish is a Science Writer with the Office of Science.