The brain needs its surroundings to be just right. That is, unlike some internal organs, such as the liver, which can process just about anything that comes its way, the brain needs to be protected and to have a chemical environment with the right balance of proteins, sugars, salts, and other metabolites.
Frances H. Arnold, a leader in the field of protein engineering and a member of the faculty at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has been named one of 11 inventors who are the recipients of the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The announcement was made by the White House on December 21.
Protein engineers at Caltech have tapped into a hidden talent of one of nature's most versatile catalysts. The enzyme cytochrome P450 is nature's premier oxidation catalyst—a protein that typically promotes reactions that add oxygen atoms to other chemicals. Now the Caltech researchers have engineered new versions of the enzyme, unlocking its ability to drive a completely different and synthetically useful reaction that does not take place in nature.
Theodor Agapie, assistant professor of chemistry at Caltech, has received the 2013 Award in Pure Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (ACS). The award will be presented at the national meeting of the ACS in New Orleans in April.
ACS is recognizing Agapie for his laboratory research on inorganic compounds. According to Agapie, his lab is working toward developing catalysts for artificial photosynthesis, a promising area of research into sustainable energy.
Chemists at Caltech have managed, for the first time, to simulate the biological function of a channel called the Sec translocon, which allows specific proteins to pass through membranes. The feat required bridging timescales from the realm of nanoseconds all the way up to full minutes, exceeding the scope of earlier simulation efforts by more than six orders of magnitude. The result is a detailed molecular understanding of how the translocon works.
Jacqueline K. Barton, Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor and professor of chemistry and chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech, has been elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. As the health arm of the National Academies, the IOM is recognized as "a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on human health issues."
Sarah Reisman, assistant professor of chemistry at Caltech, is one of 10 winners of 2013 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemistry Society. Winning in the "early career scholar" category, Reisman will accept the award at the annual meeting of the American Chemistry Society in Indianapolis in September 2013.
According to the award citation, Reisman was recognized for her Caltech research group's original contributions to the understanding of complex molecule synthesis and reaction development.
John Brady, Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering at Caltech, will receive the 2012 Fluid Dynamics Prize from the American Physical Society at the Division of Fluid Dynamics annual meeting in November. Brady was cited for his contributions to the study of the deformation and flow of complex fluids, for developing a computational model known as Stokesian Dynamics, and for his contributions to the field of fluid dynamics through his role as a journal editor.
Scientists and engineers around the world are working to find a way to power the planet using solar-powered fuel cells. Such green systems would split water during daylight hours, generating hydrogen that could be stored and used later to produce water and electricity. But robust catalysts are needed to drive the water-splitting reaction. Now Caltech chemists have determined the mechanism by which some highly effective cobalt catalysts work.
Caltech researchers have shown for the first time that a specific sugar, known as GlcNAc ("glick-nack"), plays a key role in helping cancer cells grow rapdily and survive under harsh conditions. The finding suggests new potential targets for therapeutic intervention.