UP photo
Sr. Angela Hoffman plants yew trees.
UP photo
Sr. Angela Hoffman plants yew trees.

Benedictine Sister Angela Hoffman, professor of chemistry at the University of Portland, was named the Oregon Academy of Science 2014 Outstanding Higher Education Teacher in Science and Mathematics.

Sister Angela, on the UP faculty since 1989, has helped undergraduate students with more than 150 projects involving the ingredient paclitaxel and the anti-cancer drug Taxol.

“I tell my students that we come at this work from a point of wonder, not a point of mechanism,” Sister Angela says. “This is something I have to communicate to my students who think they are going to get all the answers out of their textbooks: science is about the unknown, whereas textbooks are about the known.”

Paclitaxel is found originally in the rare and rapidly vanishing yew tree, native to the Pacific Northwest. Taxol is used to treat ovarian cancer, breast cancer, the AIDS-related cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma, and other conditions.

Sister Angela has four patents from 1997, 2003, 2006 and 2010 all pertaining to recovering taxanes from soil around yew trees and other plants that are grown to produce Taxol.

In November, several dozen yew trees were planted on campus.