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Chemistry professor wins outstanding junior faculty award

University of South Florida chemistry assistant professor Arjan van der Vaart has been awarded the American Chemical Society HP Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, the ACS announced Friday.

“It is a great honor,” van der Vaart said.

This prestigious award is given by the ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry with financial sponsorship from Hewlett Packard. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society with more than 161,000 members, van der Vaart said.

van der Vaart will receive the award at a ceremony during the ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry poster session at the ACS national meeting in Boston, Mass., in August. In addition, van der Vaart was invited to give an oral presentation in one of the meeting symposia with recognition as one of the best young researchers working in the field of computational chemistry.

van der Vaart will present his findings on the Ets-1 protein, a human transcription factor that is important for embryonic development, blood vessle growth and cancer.

“Ets-1 is a unique protein—it’s the only protein that partially unfolds upon binding DNA,” van der Vaart said. “Most DNA-proteins fold or maintain their solution-state structure. Our simulations identified the interactions that cause this very unusual behavior.”

Using these computer simulations has shed light on the complex binding process of a large and important class of proteins, which helps to explain the mechanism by which these proteins trigger major cellular events, van der Vaart said.

van der Vaart joined the faculty at the USF College of Arts and Sciences in August 2009.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Chemistry School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Research  
Author: Michele Dye