Chester Mathis came to HSU as pre-med student, but found he had a greater interest in chemistry than medical school. Still, he found a way to study both by pursuing medicinally related chemistry.
His decision turned out pretty well for the field of Alzheimer's research. Mathis is currently an Endowed Chair Professor of Radiology and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Director of the Positron Emission Tomography-or PET-Facility at the University of Pittsburgh.
Recently, he and his geriatric psychiatry research partner William Klunk developed a radiolabeled dye that makes it possible to identify amyloid-a substance found in the plaque associated with Alzheimer's disease-in a living brain.
Mathis' research earned him a slew of awards, and he is continuing his work. He is now using the same technique to identify tau, another protein deposit found in the brain of Alzheimer's patients. Last year, the Michael J. Fox Foundation commissioned Mathis to develop a similar compound to identify alpha-synuclein, a protein deposit found in patients with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.