Two researchers in the College of Medicine at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center have received $200,000 in grants from the Welch Foundation of Houston.
J. Martin Scholtz, Ph.D., associate professor and recently appointed interim head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics, received $150,000 for continuing his work titled, “Forces Involved in Protein Folding and Stability.” Hagan Bayley, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics, received $50,000 for continuing his work titled, “Single Molecule Kinetics of Photoremovable Protecting Groups.”
Scholtz will study the factors involved in stability of globular proteins. Proteins are made in a very specific order and pattern, like shoelaces strung together, then looped over themselves in different ways, folding into place. Each protein must be folded a very specific way; if it is off by only a minuscule amount, it will not function properly. This study is an extension of previous work in understanding the stability of protein structures.
Scholtz received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California – Berkeley in 1989 and a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1984. He joined the faculty of the College of Medicine in 1993 in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics. He is currently associate professor in the department and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. He serves as faculty director of the Protein Chemistry Laboratory and as associate director of the Center for Advanced Biomolecular Research.
Bayley and his team will continue their research on photoremovable protecting groups. These groups are used in synthetic chemistry, DNA chip production and to make caged reagents for biological research. The protecting groups are like small zip-locked plastic sandwich bags, but when a light is applied, they disintegrate, releasing active biological molecules. Bayley will study seven different types of protecting groups, measuring how fast each will disintegrate in sub-millisecond units of time. Most of the disintegrations in previous work have taken place in about one second, which is too long to be used in experiments like those of protein folding.
Bayley received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1979 and his B.A. in chemistry from the University of Oxford in 1974. He joined the faculty at the College of Medicine in 1997 as professor and head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Genetics.
The Welch Foundation was established by the estate of Robert A. Welch, an oil and minerals entrepreneur. The foundation provides lecture series, underwrites 41 academic chairs and provides grants to chemistry departments at small- and medium -sized educational institutions in Texas, as well as grants to fund research in chemistry. The foundation’s mission is to advance basic research in chemistry for the betterment of humankind.
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center serves the state as a distributed, statewide health science center which has a presence in communities throughout Texas. The health science center includes five components which are dedicated to meeting the highest standards in health education, outreach and research: the College of Medicine, Baylor College of Dentistry, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

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