KU News Release

June 21, 2012
Contact: Kristi Henderson, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, 785-864-3663

Chemistry professor awarded NSF CAREER award to fund protein research

David Weis

More Information

LAWRENCE – An assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kansas has received the most prestigious award for junior faculty from the National Science Foundation.

David Weis will receive a five-year, $677,000 Faculty Early Career Development Award, known as the CAREER Award. The award supports junior faculty who engage in outstanding research, education and integration of education and research in their academic roles. Weis is the 13th of 18 eligible chemistry faculty members at KU who have received the CAREER Award since its inception in 1995.

Weis will use the award to fund his research on protein structure. Proteins are molecular machines that carry out nearly every cellular function. The function of a protein is determined by its structure, the three-dimensional arrangement of its atoms.

Inside cells, proteins often find themselves tightly crowded together in ways that can alter protein structure. Crowding effects are difficult to measure and often overlooked in studies of protein structure.

Weis will develop new methods to look at the effects of crowding using the technique of mass spectrometry. In particular, he will investigate the effects of crowding on a class of proteins that appear to be unstructured under typical laboratory conditions.

This kind of fundamental research to understand protein structure and function is the first step to developing most drugs. Establishing new methodology will enable other scientists to consider the effects of crowding on protein structure, according to Weis.

In the educational component of the project, Weis will work with undergraduate and graduate students to research and answer these questions about protein structure. The award will also fund the development of an introductory course in biomolecular structure by Weis.

Weis earned his doctorate in chemistry from Indiana University in 1998. He worked as a research assistant professor at the University of New Mexico before joining KU in 2007. His research interests include bioanalytical and biophysical chemistry, protein conformation and dynamics, and mass spectrometry.

The Department of Chemistry is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College enrolls about two-thirds of KU students and encompasses more than 55 departments, programs, centers and the School of the Arts. Nearly half of the students at KU earn their bachelor’s degrees from the College. Courses in the College cover hundreds of subjects including history, literature, chemistry, biology, art history, mathematics, anthropology, psychology, foreign language and political science.

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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