Johnson & Johnson Awards $180,000 Grant for Antileukemic Drug Research

PASADENA, Calif. — What do leukemia, the evergreen plum-yew tree in southeast Asia, and California Institute of Technology faculty member Brian Stoltz have in common?

Stoltz, an assistant professor of chemistry, is utilizing the yew to create antileukemic drugs.

To assist him in this effort, health-care product manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has awarded Stoltz a $180,000 grant over three years as part of its Focused Giving Program.

Stoltz's research in natural product synthesis and synthetic methodology has focused on developing highly selective methods for oxidizing organic compounds using a small amount of a precious metal called palladium in conjunction with oxygen.

"This grant will enable us to further develop this chemistry and to apply this technology to the laboratory synthesis of meaningful quantities of important antileukemic agents isolated in trace quantities from the yew tree as well as completely novel synthetic agents," said Stoltz.

Focused Giving Grants are awarded to academic investigators doing basic research to advance science and technology in medical fields. This competitive program opens doors to new scientific developments, as well as promotes mutually beneficial relationships between scientists working for the Johnson & Johnson family of companies and those who carry out their work at universities or research centers.

David MacMillan, a professor of chemistry at Caltech, was a previous recipient of the grant.

Founded in 1891, Caltech is a private university with an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and a faculty of about 280 professorial members, 65 research members, and some 560 postdoctoral scholars. The Institute has more than 20,000 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of more than 2,400 on campus and 4,800 at JPL.

Over the years, 30 Nobel Prizes and four Crafoord Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni. Forty-seven Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science; and eight alumni (two of whom are also trustees), two additional trustees, and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award. On the Caltech faculty there are 80 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the faculty and Board of Trustees, 70 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 45 members of the National Academy of Engineering.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jill Perry, Media Relations Director (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

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Three Caltech Faculty Named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

PASADENA, Calif. — The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected three California Institute of Technology faculty members as academy fellows. They are Fred C. Anson, Elizabeth Gilloon Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus; Joseph L. Kirschvink, professor of geobiology; and Colin F. Camerer, Rea A. and Lela G. Axline Professor of Business Economics.

The 2003 class of 187 fellows and 29 foreign honorary members includes four college presidents, three Nobel laureates, and four Pulitzer Prize winners.

Among this year's new fellows and foreign honorary members are Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations; journalist Walter Cronkite; philanthropist William H. Gates, Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; novelist Michael Cunningham; recording industry pioneer Ray Dolby; artist Cindy Sherman; and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Donald Glaser.

"It gives me great pleasure to welcome these outstanding and influential individuals to the nation's oldest and most illustrious learned society. Election to the American Academy is an honor that acknowledges the best of all scholarly fields and professions. Newly elected fellows are selected through a highly competitive process that recognizes those who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines," said academy president Patricia Meyer Spacks.

Anson has carried out pioneering work on the electrochemistry of polymers, on the catalysis of electrode reactions, and on electrochemical reactions that involve ultrathin coating of molecules on electrode surfaces.

Kirschvink, who has been honored by students for his excellence in teaching, studies how biological evolution has influenced, and has been influenced by, major events on the surface of the earth. His most significant contributions include the "snowball" earth theory—the theory that the entire Earth may have actually frozen over several times in its history, possibly stimulating evolution. Another original concept concerns the Cambrian evolutionary explosion that he believes may have been precipitated in part by the earth's rotational axis having moved to the equator in a geologically short interval of time.

Camerer's research in experimental and behavioral economics, integrates psychology with economics to explore the impact on decision sciences and game theory. His research uses economics experiments and field studies to understand how people behave when making decisions. Such research is helpful in predicting economic trends and in understanding social policy. Poverty, war, cross-cultural interactions--most social issues are affected by decision psychology.

The total number of Caltech faculty named to the academy is now 82.

The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." The academy has elected as fellows and foreign honorary members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. Drawing on the wide-ranging expertise of its membership, the academy conducts thoughtful, innovative, non-partisan studies on international security, social policy, education, and the humanities.

A full list of new members is available on the Academy website at http://www.amacad.org/news/new2003.htm.

The academy will welcome this year's new fellows and foreign honorary members at the annual induction ceremony at the academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., in October.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jill Perry, Media Relations Director (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

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Six Caltech Professors Awarded Sloan Research Fellowships

PASADENA, Calif.— Six Caltech professors recently received Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships for 2003.

The Caltech recipients in the field of chemistry are Paul David Asimow, assistant professor of geology and geochemistry, Linda C. Hsieh-Wilson, Jonas C. Peters, and Brian M. Stoltz, assistant professors of chemistry. In mathematics, a Sloan Fellowship was awarded to Danny Calegari, associate professor of mathematics, and in neuroscience, to Athanassios G. Siapas, assistant professor of computation and neural systems.

Each Sloan Fellow receives a grant of $40,000 for a two-year period. The grants of unrestricted funds are awarded to young researchers in the fields of physics, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, neuroscience, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, and economics. The grants are given to pursue diverse fields of inquiry and research, and to allow young scientists the freedom to establish their own independent research projects at a pivotal stage in their careers. The Sloan Fellows are selected on the basis of "their exceptional promise to contribute to the advancement of knowledge."

From over 500 nominees, a total of 117 young scientists and economists from 50 different colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, including Caltech's six, were selected to receive a Sloan Research Fellowship.

Twenty-eight former Sloan Fellows have received Nobel prizes.

"It is a terrific honor to receive this award and to be a part of such a tremendous tradition of excellence within the Sloan Foundation," said Stoltz. Asimow commented that he will use his Sloan Fellowship to "support further investigation into the presence of trace concentrations of water in the deep earth... I'm pleased because funds that are unattached to any particular grant are enormously useful for seeding new and high-risk projects that are not quite ready to turn into proposals." On his research, Peters said, "The Sloan award will provide invaluable seed money for work we've initiated in the past few months regarding nitrogen reduction using molecular iron systems."

The Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship program was established in 1955 by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., who was the chief executive officer of General Motors for 23 years. Its objective is to encourage research by young scholars at a time in their careers when other support may be difficult to obtain. It is the oldest program of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and one of the oldest fellowship programs in the country.

Contact: Deborah Williams-Hedges (626) 395-3227 debwms@caltech.edu

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Caltech Professor Receives National Academy of Sciences Award

PASADENA, Calif.— Harry B. Gray, Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and founding director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology, has been awarded the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Award in Chemical Sciences.

This medal and prize of $20,000 are awarded annually for "innovative research in the chemical sciences that, in the broadest sense, contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity," according to NAS. Gray was chosen for "his demonstration of long-range electron tunneling in proteins, his inspirational teaching and mentoring of students, and his unselfish service as a statesman for chemistry." The prize, supported by the Merck Company Foundation, has been presented since 1979.

Gray's noteworthy career has focused on interdisciplinary research that addresses many of the fundamental problems in inorganic spectroscopy and photochemistry, biological inorganic chemistry, and biophysics.

Gray, the recipient of numerous distinguished honors and awards, has been a Caltech professor since 1966. He was named the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry in 1981, and served as chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from 1978 to 1984. From 1986 to 2001 he was the head of the Beckman Institute. Gray received the National Medal of Science in 1986.

Contact: Deborah Williams-Hedges (626) 395-3227 debwms@caltech.edu

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Two Caltech Professors Elected to American Philosophical Society

PASADENA, Calif. — The American Philosophical Society (APS) recently announced that Pamela J. Bjorkman, professor of biology at Caltech and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and Peter B. Dervan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, are two of the 37 new members elected in this year.

Bjorkman is being recognized for her work with molecules needed for cell-surface recognition, and their role in the immune system. Her lab is responsible for the discovery of the three-dimensional structure of a protein implicated in cachexia, the syndrome that causes AIDS and cancer patients to lose body mass.

With a BA from the University of Oregon in 1978 and a PhD from Harvard in 1984, Bjorkman joined the Caltech staff in 1989 as an assistant professor of biology. She became a full professor in 1998, and also a full investigator for the HHMI in 2000.

In addition to the APS, Bjorkman is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been awarded the Gairdner Foundation International Award, which recognizes contributions to the medical sciences, the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Fundamental Immunology, and the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award.

Dervan's research is aimed at the bioorganic chemistry of nucleic acids and the recognition of DNA by small molecules. Using synthesis, biology, and physical chemistry, he and his colleagues have created synthetic molecules that are similar to natural proteins in their ability to recognize predetermined DNA sequences.

A Boston native, Dervan received his BS from Boston College in 1967 and a PhD from Yale University in 1972. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University before joining Caltech in 1973 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He was named Bren Professor of Chemistry in 1988.

His election to the APS adds to Dervan's list of professional honors, which includes membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and foreign membership in the French Academy of Sciences.

The American Philosophical Society was founded over 250 years ago by Benjamin Franklin, making it the oldest learned society in the United States. The organization supports the search for functional knowledge in the fields of sciences and humanities through collaboration between members and the community as a whole.

CONTACT: Ken Watson, Media Relations (626) 395-3227

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Caltech Professor Receives Young Investigator Award for Insights into the Brain

For Immediate Release May 8, 2001

PASADENA, Ca.— How does a brief moment in time become etched forever as a memory? How does the brain manipulate the body's biomechanical ability to allow us—well, most of us—to walk and chew gum at the same time? Understanding the chemical basis of such brain processes is the goal of Linda C. Hsieh-Wilson, an assistant professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. In support of her research, Hsieh-Wilson has been named a Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, and will receive $240,000 in support over the next two years.

In her laboratory, Hsieh-Wilson and her graduate students apply a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the molecular mechanisms that enable nerve cells to interact and communicate with one another. "We know that complex processes, such as learning and memory, are the result of many molecules—proteins, carbohydrates, and neurotransmitters—working together in the brain to transmit, process, and store information," Hsieh-Wilson notes. "However, we do not yet know the identity of many of these molecules, or understand how their structures relate to their biological function." By combining chemistry, molecular biology, and neurobiology, Hsieh-Wilson and her students can make molecules that test their hypotheses about the molecular mechanisms that allow neuronal communication.

The group explores chemical changes at a cell's synapse, the point between two nerve cells where an electrical nerve impulse is converted to a chemical signal for transmission from one cell to the next. They are also focusing on gaining a better understanding of the chemical modifications that occur to intracellular proteins when nerve cells are stimulated. By understanding these processes, they hope to elucidate the chemical changes that are important for brain function, as well as dysfunction.

Achieving these goals would not only provide insight into how we learn and remember, but would allow researchers to develop strategies for intervention when these processes break down.

Prior to joining the chemistry faculty last summer, Hsieh-Wilson obtained her PhD in chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1996, and completed her postdoctoral studies in neurobiology at the Rockefeller University. "I sincerely appreciate the generosity and support of the Beckman Foundation—this award enables us to build an interdisciplinary research program, and to pursue new avenues of research at the interface of chemistry and neurobiology."

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation is an independent, nonprofit foundation located in Irvine, California, and originally established in September 1977. Its mission is to support research in the fields of chemistry and the life sciences, and to foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open new avenues of research and applications in these disciplines and related sciences. Through their Beckman Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Beckman contributed more than $350 million to the advancement of scientific research and education. Mabel Beckman died in 1989; Dr. Beckman celebrated his 101st birthday in April 2001.

 

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Caltech Professor Cited for Insights into Atmospheric Phenomena

PASADENA, Ca.- The chemical constituents of Earth's atmosphere are linked together in a complex way. A subtle alteration of one can make significant, often counterintuitive changes to another. For his work in unraveling some of the knotty complexity involved in such atmospheric processes, the California Institute of Technology's John H. Seinfeld has been awarded the Desert Research Institute's 2001 Nevada Medal.

Seinfeld is the Louis E. Nohl Professor and professor of chemical engineering at Caltech. The Desert Research Institute is the autonomous research division of the University of Nevada and Community College System, and is one of the world's largest multidisciplinary environmental research organizations. The Nevada Medal recognizes outstanding scientific and engineering achievements that have led to a better understanding of the global environment.

As a young investigator in the 1970s, Seinfeld developed the first mathematical models of air pollution. Use of these models is now stipulated in the Federal Clean Air Act, and they remain the basic tool employed by scientists around the world to simulate urban and regional air quality.

His career has spanned everything from the "micro" of urban air pollution to the "macro" of global climate change. Seinfeld was one of the first scientists to describe the chemical processes that produce ozone in urban areas. Ozone is the gas in the upper atmosphere that forms a protective layer against excess ultraviolet radiation, but is also a key ingredient of photochemical smog. He has also advanced our insight into such things as acid rain, the global influence of aerosols in climate and cloud formation, and the production and evolution of aerosols in the atmosphere.

"Great progress has been made in understanding the detailed physics and chemistry of the urban atmosphere, progress that has led to significant reductions in air pollution," says Seinfeld. "Now, predicting how atmospheric chemistry and aerosols will interact to govern future climate is among the most challenging problems in all of science.

"It is to this end that our research group is now working. The Nevada Medal, with a distinguished list of former recipients, is one of this nation's most prestigious awards. I am indebted to the Desert Research Institute for this high honor," he says.

Seinfeld is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the former chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the NASA Public Service Award and the American Chemical Society's Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology. He has published more than 400 papers and four critically acclaimed books, including the basic worldwide textbook on atmospheric physics and chemistry. The minted, silver Nevada medallion and $10,000 prize were awarded to Seinfeld in ceremonies in Reno last month.

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Caltech Celebrates Pauling Centennial

PASADENA, Calif.- In honor of the 100th anniversary of the late Linus Pauling's birthday, the California Institute of Technology will host "Frontiers in Science," a day of presentations by world renowned scientists including three Nobel Laureates. The event will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 2, in Beckman Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.

The conference is organized by the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and the program is:

10 a.m.: Opening Remarks - Ahmed Zewail, Linus Pauling Chair Professor, Caltech (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1999) and David A. Tirrell, McCollum-Corcoran Chair Professor, Caltech.

Session I - Chair, David A. Tirrell 10:15 a.m. - by Elias James Corey, Sheldon Emery Chair Professor, Harvard University (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1990), "Topics in Enantioselective Synthesis."

11 a.m. - Richard Lerner, President, The Scripps Research Institute, "All Antibodies Catalyze the Oxidation of Water." 11:45 a.m. - Jack D. Dunitz, Professor of Chemical Crystallography, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, "Looking Backwards, Glancing Sideways."

12:05 p.m. - Intermission

Session II - Chair, Ahmed H. Zewail 1:30 p.m. - Charles H. Townes, University Professor of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, (Nobel Prize for Physics, 1964), "The Laser." 2:15 p.m. - Thomas Steitz, Eugene Higgins Chair Professor, Yale University, "Insights into the RNA World from the structure of the Large Ribosomal Subunit and its Ligand Complexes."

3 p.m. - Alexander Rich, William Thompson Sedgwick Chair Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "Linus Pauling: Personal Reflections."

3:20 p.m. - Closing remarks 3:30 p.m. - Adjournment

Pauling came to Caltech as a graduate student and received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1925. He joined the faculty in 1926 and remained until 1964. Until his passing in 1994 he was a Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Caltech and director of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto. Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.

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Caltech, Agere Systems scientists developtechnique to shrink memory chips

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology and Agere Systems, formerly known as the Microelectronics Group of Lucent Technologies, have developed a technique that could result in a new generation of reliable nanoscale memory chips. This research could lead to smaller, less expensive cellular phones and digital cameras.

The research development, announced December 13 at the International Electron Devices Meeting, applies to a type of memory called "flash" memory, which continues to store information even when the devices are turned off. This information could include personal phone directories in a cellular phone or the pictures captured by a digital camera. In a typical cellular phone, there are 16 to 32 million bits of data stored on a silicon flash memory chip. Each bit of data is stored in a part of the flash memory chip called a "cell." As the size of silicon memory chips decreases, the chips are more and more difficult to make leakproof, resulting in the loss of stored date.

Using an aerosol technique developed at Caltech, the researchers formed memory cells by spraying silicon nanocrystals through a bath of high-temperature oxygen gas. The end result was memory cells comprised of silicon on the inside with a silicon dioxide outer shell. The silicon nanocrystals store the electrical charge, whereas the insulating silicon dioxide shell makes the nanocrystal memory cells more leakproof.

"As compared to conventional flash memories, these silicon nanocrystal memories offer higher performance, simpler fabrication processes, and greater promise for carrying memory miniaturization to its ultimate limit," said Harry Atwater, professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech and project director.

To overcome the potential leakage problem, Atwater and Richard Flagan, McCollum Professor of Chemical Engineering, and their students at Caltech, and colleagues Jan de Blauwe and Martin Green at Agere Systems developed a method to break up each memory cell into 20,000 to 40,000 smaller cells. Therefore, even if several of the smaller cells spring a leak, the vast majority of the charge will not be lost and the bit of data stored in the whole memory cell will be retained.

The aerosol approach has several advantages over the conventional lithographic techniques used to make today's flash memory cells. Because it requires fewer steps, it is less expensive and takes less time to produce. In addition, the aerosol approach will allow researchers to continue making smaller and smaller devices.

So far, the researchers have created extremely robust flash memory cells. For instance, they have charged and dissipated a single cell one million cycles without significant degradation, whereas with traditional silicon chips, 10,000 cycles is considered satisfactory. While these research results are promising, it is premature to predict if or when the technology will be commercially implemented.

In addition to Atwater and Flagan, other members of the Caltech nanocrystal memory team are postdoctoral scholar Mark Brongersma, and graduate students Elizabeth Boer, Julie Casperson, and Michele Ostraat.

The research was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA.

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Caltech Professor Honored by the Pope

PASADENA—Ahmed Zewail, 1999 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Physics and professor of physics at Caltech, was appointed as an academician to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on November 13 at the Vatican.

Zewail met Pope John Paul II at St. Peter's Basilica and was presented with the insignia of the Pontifical Academy. There are only 80 academicians who are members of the Pontifical Academy, which dates back to 1603. He and president David Baltimore, who was appointed in 1978, are two members from Caltech.

The purpose of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is to promote the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences, and the study of related epistemological problems.

Candidates are selected based on their work and their moral personality, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

The Pope requires the Academy to "serve the Truth," as stated by Pope Pius XI in 1936. As a member, Zewail will be expected to inform the Pope of scientific developments and their technological applications.

In presenting the honor, the Pope spent more than two hours with new appointees, speaking Italian in his formal address during the ceremony and later speaking English to Zewail one on one.

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