Free Radical and Radiation Biology


  • Douglas R. Spitz


Affiliated faculty

  • Mark E. Anderson (Radiation Oncology), Nukhet Aykin-Burns (Radiation Oncology), Kyle E. Brown (Radiation Oncology), John M. Buatti (Radiation Oncology), Garry R. Buettner (Radiation Oncology), Andrian L. Burnett (Radiation Oncology), A. Brent Carter (Radiation Oncology), Kristi E. Chang (Radiation Oncology), Gary E. Christensen (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Joseph J. Cullen (Radiation Oncology), Frederick E. Domann Jr. (Radiation Oncology), John F. Engelhardt (Anatomy and Cell Biology/Internal Medicine), Melissa Fitzgerald-Teoh (Radiation Oncology), Melissa E. Fath (Radiation Oncology), Gerry F. Funk (Radiation Oncology), Paloma H. Giangrande (Radiation Oncology), Apollina Goel (Radiation Oncology), Prabhat C. Goswami (Radiation Oncology), Michael M. Graham (Radiation Oncology), Richard D. Hichwa (Radiation Oncology), Henry T. Hoffman (Radiation Oncology), Kaikobad Irani (Internal Medicine), Mathews Jacob (Radiation Oncology), Geraldine M. Jacobson (Radiation Oncology), Aloysius J. Klingelhutz (Radiation Oncology), C. Michael Knudson (Radiation Oncology), Kevin C. Kregel (Radiation Oncology), Michael L. McCormick (Radiation Oncology), Sanford Meeks (Radiation Oncology), Yusuf Menda (Radiation Oncology), Francis J. Miller (Radiation Oncology), Earl Nixon (Radiation Oncology), Edward C. Pennington (Radiation Oncology), Larry W. Robertson (Radiation Oncology), Timothy C. Ryken (Radiation Oncology), Ehab Sarsour (Radiation Oncology), Michael K. Schultz (Radiation Oncology), Milan Sonka (Radiation Oncology), Douglas R. Spitz (Radiation Oncology), John J. Sunderland (Radiation Oncology), Mindi J. Tennapel (Radiation Oncology), Timothy J. Tewson (Radiation Oncology), Aliye Uc (Radiation Oncology/Pediatrics), Douglas J. Van Dael (Radiation Oncology), Timothy J. Waldron (Radiation Oncology), M. Todd Washington (Radiation Oncology), Gordan L. Watkins (Radiation Oncology), Marc S. Wold (Radiation Oncology), Xiaodong Wu (Radiation Oncology), Weizhou Zhang (Pathology)
Graduate degrees: free radical and radiation biology; Ph.D. in free radical and radiation biology
Web site:

The Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program provides in-depth training and research experience in the physical, chemical, and biological effects of radiation. It also focuses on the metabolic production of free radicals for biology and medicine.

Free radicals are of interest to researchers and clinicians due to their role in a variety of diseases and pathological states, including degenerative diseases of aging and cancer. Manipulation of free radical reactions and redox biology hold great promise for the future development of new therapies for a variety of human diseases. The Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program stresses the importance of these areas of research to basic science, clinical medicine, and public health.

Undergraduate Education

Four courses offered by the Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program are open to University of Iowa undergraduate students: FRRB:3130 (077:120) Radiation Safety and Radiobiology, FRRB:4000 (077:107) Special Topics: Advanced Undergraduates, FRRB:4001 (077:108) Special Topics: Advanced Undergraduates, and FRRB:5000 (077:103) Radiation Biology. Students looking for an overview of the biological effects of radiation, including the role of free radicals, will find FRRB:5000 (077:103) especially appropriate. All three courses are appropriate for students who plan to enter medicine, nuclear medicine technology, environmental health, or related programs.

Graduate Programs of Study

  • Master of Science in free radical and radiation biology
  • Doctor of Philosophy in free radical and radiation biology

The Carver College of Medicine administers graduate programs in free radical and radiation biology; graduate degrees are granted through the Graduate College. See Carver College of Medicine and Graduate College in the Catalog for general information about study in medicine and graduate study at the University.

Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy

The Master of Science in free radical and radiation biology requires a minimum of 30 s.h. of graduate credit; the Doctor of Philosophy requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit.

The M.S. and Ph.D. programs are open to graduate students with a background in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, health sciences, veterinary medicine, or engineering.

After completing the introductory course FRRB:5000 (077:103) Radiation Biology, students typically concentrate on a particular aspect of the field. Some students elect to focus on radiation and cancer biology, while others choose to emphasize free radical biology.

In addition to formal lectures and some structured laboratory exercises, plans of study for free radical and radiation biology students involve small-group conferences, discussions, and seminars. Ph.D. students are encouraged to spend at least one semester as teaching assistants, for which no registration is required and no academic credit is given.

Many of the department’s graduate students elect to take FRRB:3130 (077:120) Radiation Safety and Radiobiology, a course that covers safe operation of radiation-producing equipment and handling of radioactive materials, regulations and regulatory agencies, formulas and techniques in radiation protection programs, radiation protection, and other topics.

Postgraduate Training

Postdoctoral training is available by arrangement with the program's director and individual faculty members. Contact the Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program.

Financial Support

Graduate students are supported as graduate assistants from funds available through research grants and contracts or from departmental funds. Individual postdoctoral awards also may be available; the candidate and his or her faculty sponsor apply for them jointly.


The Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program is the home of the Radiation and Free Radical Research Core Lab (RFRRC). The lab operates a 300 kVp orthovoltage X-ray generator and other radiation sources, including a 8,000-Curie Cs-137 irradiator. Students and staff have access to additional core lab support through RFRRC, with services and expertise related to analytical chemistry (EPR services) and redoxbiology, biochemistry (AES services), and linear accelerators in the Department of Radiation Oncology.

The program has a number of radiation detectors and counters, including liquid scintillation counters. It also has ultraviolet/visible spectrophotometers; various types of equipment for densitometry, chromatography, and electrophoresis; molecular biology equipment, including thermal cyclers; an automatic cell counter and particle sizer; tissue culture facilities; Typhoon Phosphoimager; HPLC; Electron Spin Resonance Spectrometers; and nitric oxide analyzers. Visit Radiation and Free Radical Research Core on the program's web site to learn more.


FRRB:3110 (077:110) Medical Physics I2-3 s.h.
Introduction to radiation used in clinical setting; fundamental physical units, measurements, principles, atomic structure and types of radiation; X‑ray generating equipment, X‑ray production, and its interaction with matter. Requirements: acceptance to radiation sciences therapy program, and maxillofacial or radiation oncology resident. Same as RSTH:3110 (672:110).
FRRB:3130 (077:120) Radiation Safety and Radiobiology2 s.h.
Instruction on safe operation of radiation producing equipment and handling of radioactive materials; origin and/or derivation of certain formulae and techniques useful in radiation protection programs; regulatory agencies, regulations, and regulatory guides pertinent to student's field; emphasis on applied aspects of radiation protection; characteristics and biological effects of ionizing radiations, properties and uses of radioisotopes, medical applications, and biological basis for protection procedures. Requirements: enrollment in radiation sciences program. Same as RSP:3130 (680:130).
FRRB:3215 (077:121) Medical Physics II2 s.h.
Treatment units used in external radiation therapy; beam calculations, isodose distributions, brachytherapy, quality assurance and quality management, protection and safety. Prerequisites: RSTH:3110 (672:110). Requirements: acceptance to radiation sciences therapy program. Same as RSTH:3215 (672:115).
FRRB:4000 (077:107) Special Topics: Advanced Undergraduatesarr.
Readings and/or laboratory experience. Offered fall semesters.
FRRB:4001 (077:108) Special Topics: Advanced Undergraduatesarr.
Readings and/or laboratory experience. Offered spring semesters.
FRRB:5000 (077:103) Radiation Biology4 s.h.
Characteristics and biological effects of ionizing radiations. Offered fall semesters of odd years. Prerequisites: BIOC:3120 (099:120) and CHEM:2210 (004:121). Requirements: college‑level physics.
FRRB:5001 (077:307) Research: Special Topicsarr.
FRRB:5002 (077:308) Research: Special Topicsarr.
FRRB:6000 (077:207) Seminar: Free Radical and Radiation Biology1 s.h.
FRRB:6004 (077:305) Research: Free Radical and Radiation Biologyarr.
FRRB:6006 (077:545) Topics in Free Radical Biology and Medicine1 s.h.
New literature in area of free radicals.
FRRB:6008 (077:547) Topics in Radiation and Cancer Biology1 s.h.
Emerging concepts in the biological effects of radiation and cancer biology; current topics in journal club format.
FRRB:7000 (077:222) Redox Biology and Medicine4 s.h.
Chemistry of free radicals, related oxidants, and antioxidants; antioxidant (redox) enzymes—their structure, biochemical function, regulation, and function in redox biology; targets of oxidants—lipids, proteins, DNA; redox biology of health (infants to healthy aging) and disease (cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases). Offered fall semesters of even years. Prerequisites: BIOC:3120 (099:120) or CHEM:2210 (004:121).
FRRB:7001 (077:288) Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer3 s.h.
Fundamental aspects of oncology at the cellular and molecular levels; mechanisms of cancer initiation and progression, oncogene action, DNA damage and repair, carcinogenesis by radiation, chemicals, viruses; tumor immunology, anticancer therapies. Offered spring semesters of odd years. Requirements: strong basic science background. Same as PATH:7001 (069:288).