Daniel Herschlag named this year’s William C. Rose Award winner

Dan HDaniel Herschlag, professor of biochemistry, chemistry and chemical engineering at Stanford University, has won this year’s William C. Rose Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to biochemical and molecular biological research and a demonstrated commitment to the training of younger scientists.

“Throughout his career, Professor Herschlag has demonstrated superb research scholarship. He combines a keen intellect and a rigorous thought process to identify, analyze and solve the key issues in a given research problem,” wrote his nominator, Carol A. Fierke, chairwoman of the department of chemistry at the University of Michigan.

Herschlag is  most famous for his groundbreaking research on the mechanism and thermodynamics of ribozyme catalysis. Fierke emphasized that “he has set the standard for excellence in this field.”

Calling Herschlag “the foremost expert in the world” on the mechanisms of phosphoryl transfer reactions in both chemical reactions and enzyme-catalyzed reactions, Fierke explained how Herschlag contributed to a fundamental understanding working on the nonenzymatic mechanism of phosphoryl transfer reactions as a graduate student.

“As an independent researcher, he has demonstrated that the transition states for phosphoryl transfer reactions catalyzed by enzymes are very similar to the structure of the nonenzymatic reactions. In recent years, he has compared reaction mechanisms and transition stabilization of enzymes that are specific for hydrolyzing phosphate monoesters, phosphate diesters and sulfate esters. This work has provided evidence of that catalytic promiscuity plays a role in the evolution of new catalytic activities.”

Rick Russell, who served as a postdoctoral fellow in Herschlag’s  lab from 1997 to 2002 and is now an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, cited Herschlag’s  numerous fundamental contributions to our understanding of the functional properties of macromolecules and his level of commitment to training younger scientists.

“His advice on manuscripts is routinely sought by a large number of researchers across a wide range of the fields of RNA and protein structure and function,” Russell wrote, “I am continually amazed at how willing Dan is to donate his time to provide guidance, and I am amazed at how effective his guidance is across this wide range of scientific areas. I know of no other scientist who is so willing and eager to assist students in this way.”

Suzanne Pfeffer, ASBMB president-elect, agreed, saying, “The success of Herschlag's former trainees is impressive and is surely, in part, due to the very rigorous standards that he sets for them during their training.  Herschlag takes his mentorship role seriously, and his lab members are very devoted to him.”

The William C. Rose Award consists of a plaque, $3,000, and transportation to the 2010 ASBMB Annual Meeting to present a lecture.


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