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Green Receives Beckman Young Investigator Award

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Michael Green, assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State, has received a Beckman Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The award will support Green’s research involving an unusual group of enzymes known as thiolate-ligated heme proteins.

These enzymes catalyze the insertion of an oxygen atom into a variety of organic substances and play critical roles in a number of important physiological processes, including the metabolism of pharmaceuticals, the transmission of signals between neurons, the control of blood pressure, and the immune system's response against tumor cells. These enzymes are unusual in that, although thiolate heme proteins generally would be expected to be less reactive than other heme proteins, these enzymes are both highly oxidizing and highly selective in their function.

Green, who is interested in understanding the role of the thiolate group in the reaction mechanism, uses theoretical calculations and spectroscopy to study highly reactive, short-lived intermediate compounds. "Knowledge gained from these investigations could be used to guide protein or catalyst design for industrial synthesis of organic chemicals," said Green. "If you could apply this chemistry directly to petroleum alkanes — the main components of crude oil — you could make a number of oxygen-containing compounds directly." Because the proteins are involved in the metabolism of many pharmaceuticals, better understanding of their chemistry also may aid the design of targeted drugs.

Green earned his doctoral and master’s degrees in chemistry at the University of Chicago in 1998 and 1994, respectively, and bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physics at Texas A&M University in 1992. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in July 2002, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 1998 to 2002.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation promotes research in chemistry and the life sciences to foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science. The Young Investigator Award program recognizes young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers. Since 1991, the Beckman Foundation has awarded 195 Young Investigator awards totaling more than forty million dollars to young scientists at prominent universities and research institutions across the United States.

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