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Amie Boal honored with Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry
22 September 2020
Amie Boal

Amie Boal, associate professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology, has been named the 2021 recipient of the American Chemical Society Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry. The award was established in 1945 to stimulate fundamental research in enzyme chemistry by early career scientists and to celebrate outstanding work in enzyme chemistry where the presence of enzyme action is unequivocally demonstrated. Boal was honored for her work to understand the structure and mechanism of enzymes that require metal ions for catalysis.

“I am really proud of my students and research personnel, past and present, who performed all of the work recognized by the award,” says Boal. “And I am grateful to our collaborators here at Penn State and elsewhere who brought us interesting new problems to work on in enzymology and helped us make key discoveries.”

Department of Chemistry Head Phil Bevilacqua added, "I'm so pleased to see Amie's work recognized by this very high honor. She has been a leader in structural enzymology. What is remarkable is that Amie has made seminal contributions on three completely different enzymes including the discovery and characterization of a novel class of metal-free ribonucleotide reductases that make the DNA sugar. Amie is an outstanding scholar in all respects including teaching and service." 

The award specifically recognizes Boal’s successes in revealing the structural basis for methyl transfer by radical SAM enzymes, the discovery and characterization of ribonucleotide reductases that employ unusual mechanisms for substrate activation—including novel metal-free systems, and uncovering mechanisms and intermediates involved in catalysis by mononuclear nonheme iron-dependent and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent oxygenases.

Boal and her research group study the structural differences between members of large metalloenzyme superfamilies that share common features but promote different reactions or use distinct cofactors. Their objectives include identifying the key outcome-dictating structural characteristics of a given catalyst, reprogramming it for new functions using insight from its structure, and understanding the adaptive advantages in choice of metallocofactor or assembly pathway. The group characterizes stable reactant and product complexes to answer these questions, with an increasing focus on development and implementation of crystallographic approaches to study metalloenzyme reaction intermediates.

Boal’s previous awards and honors include being named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars in 2018 by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, the award is presented to chemists that are within the first five years of their academic careers, have created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education. She was awarded a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for Early Stage Investigators at the National Institutes of Health, in 2016. Boal was also named a Searle Scholar in 2014, a program that recognizes exceptional young faculty members and supports independent research in medicine, chemistry, and the biological sciences. In 2012, Boal was awarded a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2013, Boal was a postdoctoral scholar at Northwestern University. She earned her doctoral degree at the California Institute of Technology and her bachelor's degree at Pomona College.

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating Amie Boal and her research group on this well-deserved honor.