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Renowned Professor of Biology, Biochemistry at UH, Dies

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December 24, 2008-Houston-
Gregory M. Cahill, associate professor of biology and biochemistry at the University of Houston whose work with glow-in-the-dark zebrafish advanced the study of biological clocks, died Dec. 23. He was 50.

"Greg has been one of the most important people in our department for a long time," said Stuart E. Dryer, Moores Professor and chair of the department of biology and biochemistry. "He was noted for the quality of his research, excellence as a teacher and mentor, and his wonderful personality."

Jerald W. Strickland, interim senior vice chancellor/senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, said Cahill's death "is a significant loss for the UH family."

Cahill was at a Houston airport waiting to catch a flight to visit family for the holidays, when he passed away, Dryer said.

As a researcher, Cahill made seminal contributions to the understanding of biological clocks. Using genetically altered zebrafish that glow in the dark, Cahill and his team of researchers found new tools that shed light upon biological clock cycles. Ultimately, this type of research can help with tracing why humans develop such things as sleep disorders or mental illnesses such as depression.

Cahill's recent work focused on circadian rhythms - the daily rhythm of internal clocks that govern all aspects of biology. UH's Biological Clocks Program is one of the world's leading centers for circadian rhythms research, with five laboratories and a team of more than 30 scholars. In addition to Cahill, the group is led by four other tenured faculty members in the biology and biochemistry department - Dryer, Professor Arnold Eskin, Professor Paul Hardin and Professor Michael Rea.

Cahill's research was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation and the Texas Advance Research Program, among others. He had published 37 papers in his field.

Cahill also taught undergraduate classes in physiology and graduate courses in behavioral biology.

"Many Ph.D. students have gone through his labs and been successful," Dryer said. "He was invited to give lectures at universities and conferences all over the world. His work was very respected and highly cited."

Cahill was the winner of the University of Houston Research Excellence Award for assistant professors in 1998, was a member of the Research Council and had served as associate chair for graduate affairs. He was promoted to associate professor at UH in 1998.

Prior to coming to UH in 1994, Cahill was a research assistant professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. He received postdoctoral training at Emory University. He earned a doctorate degree in biology and neuroscience from the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he studied the mechanisms of circadian responses to light. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

His research interests included molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms of vertebrate circadian rhythmicity, photoreceptor cell and molecular biology, and neurobiology. He was a member of the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms and the Society for Neuroscience.

Survivors include a sister, Elizabeth Bjorlin of Prior Lake, Minn.; and four brothers, Paul Cahill of Janesville, Minn., Byron "Pat"Cahill of Kasson, Minn., Jared Cahill of Prior Lake and William Cahill of Eagan, Minn.

The time and place of a memorial service will be announced by Arnoldt-McRaith Funeral Home in Janesville.

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