Professor of Biology Paul Doestch and Professor of Chemistry Craig Hill are joint recipients of this year's Albert E. Levy Science Faculty Research Award of the Emory chapter of Sigma Xi.
Sigma Xi is a scientific fraternity for North America, whose goal is to foster interest in science, technology and the research experience. A requirement for membership is having published a piece of scientific research.
Doetsch's award was based on a paper that was published in the 1995 issue of the journal Cell. The work was conducted by Doetsch and his former graduate student Wei Zhou (now a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins), with assistance from Daniel Reines, an associate professor in the biochemistry department.
In their research, they discovered new information about the way in which genetic information is relayed within cells that has wide-ranging implications for understanding the most basic machinery of gene expression. "Until now," said Doetsch, "many scientists have believed that only one of the two strands of DNA plays a key role throughout the process of cellular transcription, in which genetic information is copied from DNA to make RNA. We discovered that in fact both, and not just one, of the two strands of DNA play key roles in the entire transcription process."
Hill's award was based on a paper co-authored by a doctoral student under his advisement, Xuan Zhang, that describes the first molecule, in this case a catalyst, that can sense the inevitable damage that comes in the course of functioning, and then repair itself. No other man-made, dynamically functioning entity thus far has this ability. In contrast, the most complex entities in nature, including humans, do exhibit this ability. "We call such a catalyst `intelligent,'" said Hill, "because it has a sense of its own integrity. The concept of `smart' systems should be extendible to a host of other man-made materials and devices."
Hill is the president-elect of the Emory chapter of Sigma Xi.
-- Nancy M. Spitler