Dr. Peggy Louise Olive
1948 - 2018

Passing of Dr. Peggy Olive

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Peggy Olive on December 10th. Peggy was a member of the UBC Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from 1983 until her retirement in 2009, and her research laboratory was housed within the BC Cancer Research Centre.

Peggy was born in Montreal in 1948 and obtained her BSc in Physics from Bishop’s University in Quebec in 1969, her MSc in Biophysics from the University of Western Ontario, and her PhD in Biochemistry from McMaster University in 1976. She met her husband (and partner in science of 40 years), Dr. Ralph Durand, at graduate school. Peggy was an accomplished radiation biologist and dedicated her career to improving the efficacy of radiation in the treatment of cancer. Among many other scientific achievements, Peggy developed phosphorylated histone H2AX as a marker of DNA damage in cells, and she was instrumental in developing the comet assay nearly 30 years ago to quantify DNA damage in single cells. The "Olive tail moment" is used worldwide to quantify DNA damage using the comet assay.

Peggy was a well-respected researcher, colleague and friend to many within the UBC community and around the world. Peggy was a teacher and mentor to many talented scientists and was a perpetual student herself, always asking insightful questions and eagerly discussing scientific findings with trainees and principal investigators alike. She received several awards for her research and served on countless student supervisory committees during her career. While those in the BC Cancer and UBC communities will remember Peggy for her brilliant scientific mind and passion for research, those who worked closely with her will remember her fondly for her wonderful sense of humor and creativity.

After retiring from BC Cancer in 2009, Peggy (and Ralph) spent their time on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia where she volunteered, gardened, and self-published two novels. She will be greatly missed, but her legacy of improving cancer treatments using radiation will live on.