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Stephen Benkovic Receives Hirschmann Award

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Benkovic-Steve-2009-taken-by-Greg-Greico
Credit: Greg Greico, Penn State

Stephen J. Benkovic, Evan Pugh Professor and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry at Penn State, has received the 2010 Ralph F. Hirschmann Award in Peptide Chemistry.  The annual award is given by the American Chemical Society and is sponsored by Merck Research Laboratories.  The award recognizes and encourages outstanding achievements in the chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics of peptides -- molecules containing two or more amino acids.

Benkovic's research accomplishments have been described as highly original, of unusual breadth, and as having a profound impact on understanding how proteins function as catalysts.  His work is continually considered to be at the forefront of research at the interface of chemistry and biology, and he is considered to be among the most prominent mechanistic enzymologists in the world.  His studies feature state-of-the-art chemical-biological techniques that include the development and application of innovative kinetic methods, the invention of novel biological protocols for investigating the chemical sequence and structural basis of enzyme activity, and the discovery of enzyme inhibitors with therapeutic potential.  With these techniques, he has studied many different enzyme systems that are important in human biology, including research that has been of fundamental importance in the design of cancer drugs and antibiotics.

Some of the many awards bestowed on Benkovic in recognition of his scientific achievements include his being named a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1984, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1985, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1987, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1995, and a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2002.

A 1960 magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Lehigh University with bachelors degrees in English literature and in chemistry, Benkovic earned a doctoral degree in organic chemistry with minors in physical chemistry and biochemistry at Cornell University in 1963.  From 1964 to 1965 he was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  He joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1965 and was promoted to associate professor in 1967, then to professor in 1970.  The University honored him with the title of Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry in 1977, Holder of the University Chair in Biological Sciences in 1984, and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry in 1986.

Benkovic is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Federation of American Biologists, Sigma Xi, and the Chemical Society.  He serves as a scientific advisor to the Corning, Myriant, and Anacor companies as well as the venture-capital firms Rho and Ascent Bio Ventures.  Locally, he is a member of the external advisory group for the Geisinger Medical Center as well as various committees for the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

His previous awards include the Eastman Kodak Scientific Award in 1962, the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship from 1968 to 1974, the National Institutes of Health Career Development Award from 1969 to 1974, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976, the Pfizer Enzyme Award in 1977, the Gowland Hopkins Award in 1986, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 1988, the National Institutes of Health Merit Award in 1988, the Repligen Award in 1989, the Bicentennial Scientific Achievement Award of the City College of New York in 1990, the Alfred Bader Award of the American Chemical Society in 1994, an honorary doctorate of science degree from Lehigh University in 1995, the Wellcome Visiting Professorship at the Massachusetts Medical Center in 1996, the Chemical Pioneer Award of the American Institute of Chemists in 1998, the Christian B. Anfinsen Award in 2000, the Merck Award of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2003, the Nakanishi Prize of the American Chemical Society in 2005, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science in 2009.

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