IN MEMORIAM: Mike Denison, Environmental Toxicologist

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Michael “Mike” Steven Denison, internationally known for his work in environmental toxicology, died March 22 at age 67 of glioblastoma. He was a resident of Woodland.

Grace Bedoian and Mike Denison
UC Davis retirees Grace Bedoian and her husband, Mike Denison

He joined the faculty of the Department of Environmental Toxicology in 1992 and also worked as a researcher with the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, funded by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He retired in 2018.

He was widely acclaimed for his development of the Chemical Activated LUciferase gene eXpression (CALUX) assay, a cell-based bioassay used to detect specific environmental contaminants, including, but not limited, to dioxin-like chemicals and environmental hormones (endocrine disruptors). 

The test, approved by the intergovernmental Organization of Economic Cooperation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is the international standard for detecting environmental contaminants in the protection of human health. 

“Mike made important discoveries to better protect human health from exposure to persistent organic pollutants and was an impressive leader, innovator, scientist, teacher, mentor and advocate who positively impacted the lives of his many students and colleagues,” said Distinguished Professor Bruce Hammock, founding director of the Superfund Research Program.

Degrees in 4 subjects

Born in Shirley, Massachusetts, Denison earned an associate of arts degree in biology, a bachelor’s in marine biology and a master’s in animal physiology before his studies at Cornell led to his doctorate in environmental toxicology. He did postdoctoral research in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada, and in Stanford University’s Department of Pharmacology.

He began his academic career as an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Michigan State University, East Lansing, from 1988 to 1992, and then relocated to UC Davis.

Survivors include his wife, Grace Bedoian, who retired in 2014 as an administrator with the Superfund Research Program and a member of the Hammock lab; his mother, Alma; and two brothers. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations as follows:

  • Yolo Cares — Online or call 530-758-5566
  • Michael S. Denison, Ph.D. ’83 Environmental Toxicology Research Fund at Cornell — Online (note the fund name and No. 0018594 on the form) or call 800-279-3099

Read the complete obituary by Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Primary Category

Secondary Categories

Dateline Student Life