Houston scientist named as rising star in chemistry

Does the structure of something determine its function, or is it the other way around? What exactly is the relationship between structure and function, and why is it important to understand?

Using biochemistry, Jianpeng Ma, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University, has shed some light on these fundamental questions. The Welch Foundation recognizes his groundbreaking approach with the 2004 Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research.

The Welch Foundation, one of the nation's oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry, presents the $100,000 award annually to honor young, up-and-coming scientists at Texas institutions. Recipients are recognized for expanding the frontiers of chemistry through their innovative research endeavors.

Created in 2001, the award pays tribute to Norman Hackerman, President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Rice and long-time chairman of the Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board. The third recipient of the award, Dr. Ma received a $100,000 check, certificate and crystal sculpture at a luncheon Tuesday at the Texas Medical Center.

"Dr. Ma is an outstanding research chemist as well as a dedicated educator," said Foundation Chairman Richard J. V. Johnson. "He is a leader in his field and his persistence and diligence are an inspiration to his colleagues and students alike."

Dr. Ma is fascinated by the structure-function relationship of biological molecules. He uses computer simulation as one tool to explore this connection. One of his major breakthroughs occurred when he found a way to simulate protein motion without knowing the exact coordinates and amino-acid sequences of protein structures. His research will help scientists better understand the chemical basis of causes for diseases.

"Dr. Ma sets broad boundaries and is not afraid to delve into complex research problems," said Dr. Hackerman. "He is ab

Contact: Melissa Quiroz
Rice University

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