May 2010

ASBMB’s International Flavor


Although the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is ostensibly an American-based enterprise, ASBMB, like the science it represents, is truly an international entity. Whether they are born or trained abroad, undertaking international collaborations or sabbaticals or just traveling to conferences outside the U.S., ASBMB members continually interact with the larger scientific world. Beyond even that, ASBMB counts among its 12,000 members a significant proportion of researchers who carry out first-rate basic research at institutions abroad. In recognition of this global reach, we present profiles of some of these international men and women of ASBMB.

Sci.-Focus---MartinJennifer Martin

Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

In the movies, destiny always seems to step in at the last possible instant. Such moments are usually not as timely in real life, although Jennifer Martin did have a cinematic experience at a pivotal point in her career.

She recently had completed her masters’ degree in pharmacy in Melbourne with Peter Andrews, where she had used computational tools to study opioid analgesics, and was about to board a flight on her way to the United Kingdom to begin her next career phase— although she wasn’t exactly sure what that career would be.

“I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a pharmacist or a scientist,” she says, “so I left it in the hands of fate. I applied for numerous scholarships and decided that if I was awarded a scholarship I would continue as a scientist, studying for a doctorate in structure-based drug design with Peter Goodford at Oxford University. If I missed out on a scholarship, I figured that I wasn’t destined to be a scientist, and I would instead work in England as a pharmacist.”

Having received only rejections, Martin seemed ready to pursue the latter option as she passed through security, but, right at the gate, the staff flagged her down. They informed Martin that the dean of her pharmacy college had requested she contact him urgently; she called from a public phone with her last twenty-cent piece and was told that she just had won a prestigious scholarship.

“Here I was, at a life-changing moment,” says Martin, “and I had no one to share it with because I had to board the plane.”

In another twist, the Laboratory for Molecular Biophysics where Goodford was based was almost entirely devoted to protein crystallography. As a result, Martin’s doctoral research combined both drug design and protein crystallography— the latter supervised by Louise Johnson— and her research has followed a similar path ever since.

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