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Penn State biochemist Carsten Krebs named Distinguished Professor

15 February 2024
Carsten Krebs

Carsten Krebs, professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State, has been selected to receive the title of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in recognition of his exceptional record of teaching, research, and service to the University community. The honor is designated by the Office of the President of Penn State based on the recommendations of colleagues and the dean of the Eberly College of Science.

“Carsten is an outstanding scholar, and we are very fortunate to have him in our department and college,” said Phil Bevilacqua, distinguished professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology and head of the Department of Chemistry. “He a brilliant researcher who has overseen a plethora of highly creative and high impact papers, an exceptional adviser and teacher who has mentored outstanding and diverse students and faculty, and has engaged in enhancing diversity in our department in a profound and effective manner.”

Krebs is a bioinorganic chemist whose research focuses on iron-containing enzymes. Krebs’ creative use of Mössbauer spectroscopy to “see” all the iron in a sample, regardless of its chemical form, has earned him international renown. This technique detects minute changes in the energy levels of an atom’s nucleus when exposed to gamma rays. Krebs primarily studies the activation of oxygen by non-heme enzymes, which play key roles in human biochemistry and are involved in diverse biological processes, including oxygen sensing, DNA repair, and gene regulation. Krebs has a joint research group with J. Martin Bollinger, Jr., professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology. Together, they study the function of these enzymes using a combination of spectroscopic, kinetic, biochemical, and molecular-biological methods.

Krebs chairs his department’s Climate and Diversity Committee and engages in efforts to recruit diverse chemists to Penn State. He is the main organizer of the Penn State Bioinorganic Workshops, which have been offered to the world-wide community of bioinorganic chemists every other year since 2010.

Krebs's awards and honors include the Nobel Laureate Signature Award in Graduate Education from the American Chemical Society in 2023 alongside Bollinger and graduate alumna Rachelle Copeland, an Early Career Award from the Society for Biological Inorganic Chemistry in 2012, a Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry in 2008, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation in 2006, and a Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 2005. He is fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science.

Krebs joined the faculty at Penn State as an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in 2002 and was named assistant professor of chemistry in 2004. He was promoted to associate professor in 2007 and to full professor in 2012. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty, Krebs was a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University from 1997 to 2002. Krebs earned a doctoral degree in inorganic chemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Radiation Chemistry in Mülheim, Germany in 1997. He earned bachelor's and diploma degrees at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany in 1991 and 1994, respectively.