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Smissman Lecturer to explore biology/chemistry connection

Monday, November 10, 2014

LAWRENCE — Renowned professor Barbara Imperiali of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will present the 2014 Edward E. Smissman Memorial Lectures, describing her research creating and employing new chemical tools to understand important biological questions.

Imperiali, professor of biology and chemistry, will present a public lecture broadly accessible to non-specialists titled “Explorations at the Chemistry/Biology Interface” at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, in Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union. The 2014 Smissman Memorial Lectures Medal winner will also deliver two scientific lectures, “Fluorescent Amino Acids for Sensing Activities and Interaction” at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 13 at Alderson Auditorium and “Protein Glycosylation: Pathways, Processes and Potential Virulence Targets” at noon Friday, Nov. 14, in Room 3020 at the KU School of Pharmacy, 2010 Becker Drive on the West Campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

This biennial lecture series honors Edward E. Smissman, highly esteemed professor and first chair of the KU Department of Medicinal Chemistry. Sponsored by the Department and the Edward E. and Clarine F. Smissman Memorial Fund, these lectures celebrate the influence of Ed Smissman as an outstanding initiator of interdisciplinary research at KU, as well as the strong positive influence of both Ed and his wife, Clare, on graduate students and colleagues.

Imperiali, The 2014 Smissman lecturer, completed undergraduate studies in medicinal chemistry at University College London and doctoral studies in synthetic organic chemistry at MIT. During subsequent postdoctoral studies at MIT and Brandeis University, Imperiali began applying her synthetic organic chemistry skills to challenging targets in bioorganic chemistry and chemical biology. Seminal contributions within the field of enzyme-catalyzed protein modification biochemistry are the hallmarks of Imperiali’s research, with a special focus on protein glycosylation and phosphorylation that control important cellular events.

Imperiali’s research accomplishments, accrued over a career initiated as an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, continued as she achieved the rank of professor at the California Institute of Technology, and ultimately led her back to MIT as the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Chemistry. Her current appointment at MIT is the Class of 1922 Professor of Biology and Chemistry.

Imperiali’s research accomplishments have been recognized by induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, being named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry of Great Britain, and election to the National Academy of Sciences. Similarly her commitment to teaching has resulted in awards at both Caltech and MIT — mirroring the tradition of research and teaching excellence exemplified by Edward Smissman.

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7 of 19 cancer drugs formulated through the National Cancer Institute were developed at the KU School of Pharmacy
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$20.2 million NIH research grant earned by Distinguished Professor Jeff Aubé was 2nd largest in Kansas history
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