August 2011

Member Update

Aguanno garners mentorship award

Ann Aguanno, an associate professor of biology at Marymount Manhattan College, is a 2011 recipient of a Council on Undergraduate Research Biology Mentorship Award. The awards recognize biologists who demonstrate superior mentorship of undergraduate students in research.

Aguanno is director of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Undergraduate Affiliate Network northeast region. She has an active research program that is investigating the role of a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase family in the development of mammalian tissue systems. She also has an active undergraduate program, guiding the research of students majoring in biology. The program has enjoyed much success as of late, receiving multiple grants and honors.


Berg honored with public service award

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology President-elect Jeremy M. Berg is the recipient of a 2011 Public Service Award from the American Chemical Society. The annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to public service or to the development of public policy that benefits the chemical sciences.

Berg is associate vice chancellor for health policy and planning at the University of Pittsburgh and is a professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's department of computational and systems biology. Research in his lab is centered on molecular recognition by proteins in biological systems with the goal of understanding these processes on the structural, thermodynamic and kinetic levels. Through this analysis, he hopes to attain a more complete understanding of the mechanism of these systems. 



Wessler receives FASEB Excellence in Science Award

Susan R. Wessler, who holds a University of California president's chair and is a distinguished professor of genetics in the department of botany and plant sciences at the University of California, Riverside, has been named the recipient of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 2012 Excellence in Science Award.

The award recognizes women whose outstanding career achievements in biological science have contributed significantly to furthering our understanding of a particular discipline. Wessler is recognized internationally for her work in plant genome structure and stability.

Wessler's research looks at transposable elements in plants with a focus on the characterization of active transposable elements and determination of how they contribute to genome evolution and adaptation. To address these questions, Wessler uses a combination of genetic, biochemical and genomic approaches.


In memoriam James Brown

James Robert Brown was born in Port Angeles, Wash., on August 17, 1930, and died in Austin, Texas on May 7, 2011, at the age of 80.

Brown entered the University of Washington in 1949, but his studies were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He completed his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1956 and obtained a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Washington Medical School in 1963, working with Hans Neurath on the fundamental protein characterization of pro-carboxypeptidase.

Brown was awarded a NATO postdoctoral fellowship to work at the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England (1963 – 1965), where he participated in sequencing chymotrypsin and elastase with Brian Hartley and Frederick Sanger. Together with Hartley, Brown developed the method of diagonal electrophoresis to locate disulfide bridges in proteins. He obtained a second NATO fellowship (1965 – 1966) to work in the biophysics department at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, Israel, before joining the University of Texas at Austin, where he worked as a faculty member and then as a research scientist with the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute until his retirement in 1992. While in Austin, Brown determined the primary structure of both human and bovine serum albumin.

A modest and reserved individual with an ironic sense of humor, Brown loved his family, science, music and the natural world and supported a number of humanitarian and progressive causes throughout his life.

Six ASBMB members win Protein Society awards

Six American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members recently received awards from the Protein Society.

D. Wayne Bolen, of the University of Texas Medical Branch, was honored with the Christian B. Anfinsen Award for resolving the long-standing question of how urea denatures proteins and how compatible osmolytes force folding.


 Johannes Buchner, a professor in the department of chemistry at Technische Universität München, was given the Hans Neurath Award for his numerous contributions to protein science, specifically in the context of protein folding and molecular chaperones.



Michael Summers, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, was given the Carl Brändén Award. Summers received the award for his contributions to advancing understanding of retrovirus structure, assembly and function, primarily using NMR spectroscopy.


Brenda Schulman, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and co-director of the molecular oncology program at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Wei Yang, of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, were jointly awarded the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award. Schulman was honored for her contributions to the understanding of the ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like systems. Yang was recognized for studies that led her to propose a model of two-metal ion catalysis for a large class of nucleic acid enzymes.

Gerhard Wagner, the Elkan Rogers Blout professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School, received the Stein and Moore Award for his contributions to protein science and for shaping the field of protein NMR.

Postage stamp honors two ASBMB members

The U.S. Postal Service recently issued Forever stamps honoring four American scientists. Former American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology President Severo Ochoa and ASBMB member Melvin Calvin were among the featured scientists. The two other stamps recognized botanist Asa Gray and physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer.

According to a press release from the USPS, "With these stamps, the third in the American Scientists series, the Postal Service honors four Americans who, while dedicating their lives to understanding the fundamental process of nature, made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of science."

Calvin was the first scientist to trace in detail the process of photosynthesis, and he conducted pioneering research on using plants as an alternative energy source. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1961.

Ochoa was the first scientist to synthesize ribonucleic acid, and he competed in the race to decipher the genetic code. Ochoa won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1959 and was the president of ASBMB in 1958.


Photo credit: U.S. Postal Service ©2010.

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