June 8, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 23



In Memoriam


Welch Foundation supports biochemistry research

Portrait of Dr. Hart Dr. Hart

Two Health Science Center biochemistry researchers have received three-year, $150,000 grants from The Welch Foundation, one of the nation's oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic chemistry research.

Drs. Peter John Hart and Jean X. Jiang, biochemistry, each received funding from the foundation, which this year granted nearly $22.5 million to scientists at 27 Texas institutions.

Dr. Hart's project is "Biophysical and Structural Analyses of Phytocyanins: Plant-Specific Mononuclear Blue Copper Proteins." Dr. Hart, who co-directs the Center for Biomolecular Structure Analysis, will use x-ray crystallography to determine how the plant proteins bind copper, thereby allowing them to participate in a variety of electron transfer reactions. "Because humans possess similar copper binding proteins, the understanding gained from these studies will be directly applicable to the human molecules," he said.

Portrait of Dr. Jiang Dr. Jiang

Dr. Jiang's project is "Structural Analysis of Amino Acid Transporters by Electron Cryomicroscopy." Dr. Jiang's lab recently identified a new family of transporter proteins specific for amino acids. In collaboration with researchers at the National Center for Macromolecular Imaging at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Jiang will use state-of-the-art, high-resolution electron cryomicroscopy technology to determine the molecular structure of these transporters.

The Welch Foundation was established in 1954 by the estate of Robert A. Welch, an oil and minerals entrepreneur.

"While major scientific breakthroughs are well publicized, the basic research that serves as the foundation for those breakthroughs too often goes unnoticed," said Richard J.V. Johnson, chairman of The Welch Foundation. "There is still much to be done, much to be discovered, that will have roots in chemical research. The Foundation understands that and supports the work of Texas scientists searching for answers to new and deeper questions about the mechanisms of chemical and biochemical reactions."