Matthews recognized
for ‘total lack of selfishness,
her openness and frankness’

Kathleen Matthews

This honor is especially meaningful because it encompasses so many former students and colleagues, whose passion and diligence have shaped the direction of work in my laboratory. This recognition also reminds me of my gratitude for the special guides who nurtured my own scientific growth. Mentoring has been a constant joy and a deep source of energy and passion for the research endeavor in my life, and more has been learned from this process than was given! 

– Kathleen Matthews


Matthews will give her award lecture at the ASBMB annual meeting in conjunction with the Experimental Biology conference in Boston. Her lecture, “A tale of two proteins,” will be at 2:30 p.m. Monday, March 30, in the Ballroom West on the third level of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has chosen Kathleen S. Matthews at Rice University as the recipient of the William C. Rose Award for her groundbreaking biophysical and biochemical research on DNA-binding proteins, particularly Escherichia coli repressor proteins and the Hox protein Ultrabithorax from Drosophila melanogaster.

The Rose award recognizes exceptional contributions to biochemical and molecular biological research as well as an investment in the training and education of young scientists.

“I feel strongly that (Matthews’) work over the past 40 years has established in textbook detail the molecular mechanisms for allosteric induction of the E. coli lac operon by sugar and DNA binding to LacI,” said John S. Olson of Rice University, who nominated Matthews for the award.

Matthews graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in chemistry in 1966 and earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1970. She joined Rice University as a faculty member in 1972 and today is the Stewart Memorial professor there.

“Along the way, Kathy became interested in other bacterial repressors, eukaryotic transcription factors, Ubx and p53, and even proteins as materials, the studies of which … have provided reference points for her continuing understanding of lacrepressor,” explained Catherine Royer of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who collaborated with Matthews as a graduate student at the University of Illinois.

In addition to her significant scientific contributions, the award recognizes Matthews’ outstanding mentorship to emerging scientists. She has supervised 33 Ph.D. students, 21 of whom were women or minorities, three female M.A. students, and more than 130 undergraduate students, more than half of whom were women or minorities. She has also won numerous universitywide teaching awards, including three esteemed George R. Brown awards for superior teaching.

Furthermore, Matthews helped found the National Science Foundation-sponsored ADVANCE program to increase the number of women and minorities at Rice University’s Schools of Natural Science and Engineering and to provide support and mentoring for new faculty members.

“I can attest to her total lack of selfishness, her openness and frankness, and the very strong example she sets for scientific quality and ethics,” Royer said.

Matthews has been a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1996 and served on the editorial board of the ASBMB’s Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1989 to 1994 and as an associate editor from 1994 to 1999. She led Rice University’s biochemistry and cell biology department from 1987 to 1995 and served as dean of its Wiess School of Natural Sciences from 1998 to 2009. Simultaneously, she helped found the Keck Center for Computational Biology and the Gulf Coast Consortia, which support many successful graduate-student and postdoctoral training and research programs in the larger Houston area.

Elizabeth Meier Elizabeth Meier is a third-year Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she studies bacterial cell division in Erin Goley's lab. Originally from Portland, Ore., she completed her undergraduate studies at Scripps College, a small liberal arts college in Southern California. There, she minored in Latin American studies and majored in biology. She would love to find a career that integrates both her humanities and science backgrounds.