KU News Release


Sept. 2, 2009
Contact: Brendan M. Lynch, University Relations, (785) 864-8855

Celebrated researcher Richard Wolfenden to explain how enzymes make life thrive

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LAWRENCE — Richard Wolfenden, the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at the University of North Carolina, will conduct the Richard L. Schowen Lecture in Bioorganic Chemistry in two parts this week at the University of Kansas.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept., Wolfenden will present a lecture aimed at the Lawrence community at-large titled “An Enzyme’s View of Evolution.” The event will take place at 130 Budig Hall and is open to the public and media.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, the professor will speak on “Two Extreme Examples of Enzyme Catalytic Proficiency,” a lecture geared towards scientists. It will take place at 1001 Malott Hall and also is open to the public and media.

“Professor Wolfenden is a renowned enzymologist,” said David Benson, associate professor of chemistry at KU. “Enzymes are wonderfully complex molecules that catalyze a wide range of reactions in living organisms. Some of these reactions are so simple that one sometimes wonders why they need biologically costly catalysts. In contrast, other reactions are so difficult that they would not occur at all without an enzyme to help them. Professor Wolfenden has distinguished himself by developing innovative ways to investigate such slow reactions.”

Wolfenden received a bachelor’s in chemistry from Princeton University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal physiology from Exeter College in Oxford. He earned his doctorate at the Rockefeller Institute.

Wolfenden taught at Princeton University before moving to the Department of Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina as an associate professor in 1970. He was promoted to full professor in 1973 and Alumni Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry in 1981. He has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In addition to publishing over 170 research articles, he has served as chair of the biological division of the American Chemical Society and co-chair of Gordon Research Conference on “Enzymes, Coenzymes and Metabolic Pathways.” He has also served on the editorial board for such journals as Bioorganic Chemistry and Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry. The National Institutes of Health have funded his research continuously since 1964.

The Schowen lecture is funded by former students, colleagues and friends of Richard L. Schowen, who retired in July 2000 after 37 years of teaching chemistry at KU. Schowen’s career spanned a broad range of expertise in the chemical, biological and pharmaceutical sciences. His numerous awards include the Summerfield distinguished chair in chemistry, the Midwest Award of the American Chemical Society and an honorary doctorate from Martin Luther University in Germany.


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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