Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Designatory Letters: 
BSc Leeds 1969, PhD Lond 1973, Professor of Molecular Toxicology - University of Aberdeen

(Contributed by Michael Greaves)

Professor Gabrielle Margaret Hawksworth was in many ways the ideal University Senior Academic - devoted to both her research and her students and always willing to take on administrative tasks, no matter how potentially diverting from her principal interests. Her first degree was with honours in biochemistry and bacteriology from the University of Leeds, rapidly followed by a PhD by research. This was when she began to develop her expertise in pharmacology and toxicology, in which she achieved an international reputation. Subsequent posts included a Wellcome European Fellowship in Bergen, Norway, a Research Fellowship at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, and two Visiting Scientist positions in Bethesda, Maryland, USA working on chemical carcinogenesis and developmental pharmacology. She was subsequently appointed Senior Lecturer, then Reader in Aberdeen and in 1995 Gay’s international excellence in the fields of toxicology and pharmacology was recognised by promotion to a personal chair in molecular toxicology.

One of Gay’s first and enduring achievements as an academic at the University of Aberdeen was to establish, along with the late Professor Jim Petrie, in 1982, an MSc course in clinical pharmacology - a course which has been, and remains, hugely successful, attracting UK and international students. Gay continued throughout her career to make a major contribution to this and related courses which she helped to establish, most recently, a new MSc in drug development and drug safety in 2009. Bringing on the next generation of scientists was always a priority for Gay.

Gay expended an enormous amount of effort in support of all of her students. It is testament to her devotion and professionalism that she has supervised almost 50 research students in Aberdeen, including 31 PhD students. Through these prodigious efforts, bringing out the best in her students, Gay has had a huge impact on the field of pharmacology and toxicology globally - a fitting and enduring legacy.

Gay’s devotion to teaching and learning naturally resulted in her being appointed to many administrative roles in the Schools of Medicine and Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. For the same reasons she received numerous invitations to serve as external examiner on undergraduate and postgraduate courses in analytical biochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology at the Universities of Newcastle, Manchester, Surrey, Dundee, Glasgow and Sheffield, as well as the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and King’s College London.

Professor Hawksworth benefitted society through her scientific research. Like all excellent scientists Gay was very focussed and made advances in her research field in a logical and sequential manner, publishing approaching 150 scholarly scientific papers in the process. Her research career centred around the molecular mechanisms responsible for drug- and xenobiotic-induced hepatotoxicity and nephrotoxicity. This was authentic translational research with an impact on human health. Through painstaking laboratory experimentation which determined the mechanisms of organ toxicity, strategies to reduce or reverse organ damage from drugs and other toxins could be developed. Global recognition of Gay’s work is clearly apparent through very frequent invitations to speak at international conferences.

As a result of her academic reputation Gay served on a wide range of influential Working Parties, Expert Committees and Learned Societies. Her sustained contributions to the British Toxicology Society culminated in her appointment to the lead role as Society President in 2006 and she contributed for many years to the crucial work of the Medicines Commission, and to the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee, and has been a Council Member on the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics. Gay was an expert member on the Advisory Committee for Pesticides, an independent scientific committee which provides advice to Ministers, since 2005 and, in 2011 the new Chair of this highly influential Committee, the work of which impacts on the lives of us all.

Gay was an outstanding colleague and a charming, kind and courageous friend to very many.