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>  News Releases >   2001 >   April

Dartmouth computer scientist Bruce Randall Donald wins Guggenheim Fellowshi for work on protein structures

Posted 04/20/01

Editor's Note: Two members of the Dartmouth Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Bruce Randall Donald and Marianne Hirsch, have been awarded Guggenheim Fellowships for 2001. Donald is Professor of Computer Science. Hirsch is Professor of French and Italian Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature.

"A Guggenheim Fellowship is very selective and distinguished. It's one of the most prestigious awards that an academic can receive," said Edward Berger, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awards the fellowships annually on the basis of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. Decisions are based on recommendations from hundreds of expert advisors and are approved by the foundation's Board of Trustees.

The year 2001 Fellowship winners include 183 artists, scholars and scientists selected from among more than 2,700 applicants for awards totaling more than $6.5 million. Since 1925, the foundation has granted more than $198 million in fellowships to nearly 15,000 individuals. Recipients have included such well-known figures as Ansel Adams, Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Isamu Noguchi, Linus Pauling, Philip Roth, Paul Samuelson, Derek Walcott, James Watson and Eudora Welty. Numerous Dartmouth faculty members have won Guggenheim Fellowships.

Bruce Randall Donald, Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue research in the field of structural proteomics, the study of the geometric structures of proteins.

The field of structural proteomics sits squarely at the crossroads of biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science. At the molecular level, many genes provide the blueprint for proteins, and it remains very expensive and time consuming to determine what these proteins do, and how they do it. By using computer science, specifically by applying the mathematical language of algorithms, Donald builds three-dimensional models of proteins to better understand protein activities.

Biologists and chemists use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and mass spectrometry to survey and measure protein structure and interactions. Donald's research aims to develop computer algorithms, called physical geometric algorithms, to automate the experiment planning and data interpretation for NMR and mass spectrometry. This will yield much faster determination of the structures of individual proteins and entire protein complexes, and ultimately much better and faster design of appropriately targeted drugs or pharmaceuticals.

Donald's work also aims to use structural proteomics to discover these drugs. The new algorithms from his Dartmouth lab can help identify and interpret how proteins interact with drug molecules, thus helping design effective medications. This is especially relevant for treating illnesses such as cancer that alter protein function.

"Some of the most challenging and influential opportunities in computer science arise in developing and applying our technology to understand the molecular machinery of the cell," said Donald. "Computer science is the key to 'high-throughput' automated systems to discover the structures of lots of proteins very quickly. The field of physical geometric algorithms is playing an instrumental role in understanding important biochemical processes, like protein structure and function, and contributing to pharmaceutical and biomedical science through computer-aided drug design. It's a great example of interdisciplinary and cooperative research."

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