Gregory A. Petsko was born in Washington, D.C. He attended Princeton University and earned an A. B. in 1970, after which he went to Oxford University and received his D. Phil. in molecular biophysics in 1973. Petsko then became an assistant professor of biochemistry at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. In 1979, he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an associate professor of chemistry, and remained at MIT until 1990, eventually being promoted to professor. He then took a position at Brandeis University as the Lucille P. Markey professor of biochemistry and chemistry until 1996, when he became the Gyula and Katica Tauber professor of biochemistry and chemistry – a position he still holds today. Petsko also was director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center at Brandeis from 1994 to 2007.
Petsko’s research focuses on the three-dimensional structures of proteins and their biochemical functions. Most of his work is done in collaboration with Dagmar Ringe, with whom he shares facilities, students and a number of projects. The group employs a wide range of techniques such as X-ray crystallography, molecular biology, yeast genetics, organic synthesis, enzyme kinetics and molecular dynamics calculations to several general problems, including, the structural basis for efficient enzymic catalysis of proton and hydride transfer; the role of metal ions in bridged bimetalloenzyme active sites; direct visualization of proteins in action by time-resolved protein crystallography; the evolution of new enzyme activities from old ones and the biology of the quiescent state in eukaryotic cells.
Petsko has received many awards and honors including a Rhodes Scholarship (1970), the American Crystallographic Association’s Siddhu Award (1980), the American Chemical Society’s Pfizer Award (1986) and the Max Planck Prize (1991). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995, the Institute of Medicine in 2001 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.