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Synchrotron lab Director Hodgson wins E. O. Lawrence Award

Keith O. Hodgson has been named a recipient of the E. O. Lawrence Award for 2002 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Hodgson is a professor of chemistry at Stanford University and at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) and is director of SSRL. He and this year's six other winners will receive their awards at a ceremony to be held in late October in Washington, D.C.

"We are all enriched by the contributions these researchers have made, ranging from understanding the genetic code to measuring the expansion of the universe itself," said U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

The E. O. Lawrence Award, established in 1959, consists of a gold medal, citation and $25,000. The award honors the late Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Nobel Prize winner, pioneer in atomic energy research, innovator of the cyclotron particle accelerator, and for whom two major DOE laboratories in Berkeley and Livermore, Calif., are named.

The award, bestowed by the U.S. government and presented by the U.S. Secretary of Energy, recognizes exceptional and relatively recent contributions to the development, use or control of nuclear energy -- broadly defined to include the science and technology of particle, nuclear, atomic and molecular interactions. Hodgson's major areas of scientific impact are in research of chemistry and structural biology, for which he uses the remarkable properties of synchrotron radiation for x-ray absorption, diffraction and scattering.

Jonathan Dorfan, director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), which is home to SSRL, called Hodgson "an inspiring choice -- Keith epitomizes the innovative and pioneering qualities shown by Lawrence himself."

Said Stanford Provost John Etchemendy: "Keith Hodgson is an enormously gifted scientist. He has distinguished himself through his own discoveries, as well as through the work of scientists whose research he has made possible. Under his leadership, SSRL has become one of the leading facilities for analyzing the structure of biologically important proteins. His work is likely to have consequences we can only now imagine."

Hodgson's award recognizes his seminal contributions to chemistry for the development of new methods that use synchrotron x-rays for investigating structure and function, especially in biological systems. His pioneering protein crystal diffraction studies using synchrotron radiation and his early discoveries provided the foundation for the synchrotron revolution that followed.

His research was also among the earliest to explore and demonstrate the great value of synchrotron radiation for multiple wavelength anomalous dispersion phasing (MAD phasing), which has become a primary means of solving protein structures and which enables the high-throughput approaches critical to studies of structural genomics. He developed synchrotron-based, extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) as a unique new tool for study of the electronic and metrical details of active sites in metalloproteins. Hodgson used this approach to discover important aspects of the molybdenum site in nitrogenase, a bacterial enzyme needed to convert nitrogen to ammonia, and the iron site in cytochrome P450, a protein that is important in cellular respiration.

"It is fantastic that our pioneering work in synchrotron-based science has been recognized by such an honor," said Hodgson. "Currently at SLAC we are beginning an exciting new era with the development of a true x-ray laser. The potential for new science will be great and, with the support of the U.S. DOE, we look forward to bringing this new resource into operation later in this decade."

Hodgson earned his B.S. degree from the University of Virginia in 1969 and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. In 1980, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, he began one of the world's first focused efforts to develop a research and user facility for synchrotron studies in structural molecular biology. At Stanford, he has trained and inspired many graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, a number of whom have gone on to be leaders in fields using synchrotron radiation for structural biology and chemistry studies. Since 1998, he has served as director of SSRL, a Division of SLAC whose operation is supported by the DOE.

His work has been honored by organizations including the American Crystallographic Association, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Robert Welch Foundation and the World Bank. He has co-authored approximately 300 scientific publications and has served on the editorial boards of numerous journals. He currently chairs the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee and is on the scientific advisory committees of several organizations in the U.S. and abroad. He was recently appointed to a high-level committee to advise the United Kingdom on strategies for future development of major research facilities.


By Tom Mead

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