Congratulations to our 2017 Award Winners


Patterson Award to Zbigniew Dauter

Molecular Crystallography Laboratory, Synchrotron Radiation Research Section

Argonne National Laboratory


For over 30 years, Zbigniew Dauter has been one of the leading proponents of the use of synchrotron radiation for advancing the methodology and speed of macromolecular crystal structure determination and for enhancement of the quality of the results. Zbigniew Dauter's career has been centered at synchrotron beamlines, including those at the EMBL Outstation in Hamburg, at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven and at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne, where he has played a significant role in supporting users at these facilities. More importantly, in the larger picture, he has been an innovative developer of methodology with highly influential studies on the use of anomalous diffraction in structure determinations and in biomolecular structure analysis at true atomic resolution. He has strongly influenced the development of phasing methods based on native anomalous scatterers. He has analyzed many structures at exceptional resolution and detail that provided new insights in biological chemistry.


Dauter's work on utilizing anomalous scattering, has helped to develop methods for phasing using both light atoms such as sulfur and phosphorus, and also halogen atoms. Sulfur is intrinsic to most proteins, and advances in instrumentation and software have enabled phasing of more and more complicated structures. He is among the leaders in this area, with an emphasis on obtaining high quality diffraction data at what are referred to as 'non-heroic x-ray wavelengths' i.e. without resorting to the longer wavelengths where these light atoms' anomalous scattering are set to increase but at the 'cost' of sample absorption and where the experiment has the challenge, in the ideal, of working in vacuo. Zbigniew Dauter has also pioneered the application of phosphorus anomalous scattering to solve nucleic acid structures. In a separate development one of his most important contributions was the introduction of fast soaks of macromolecular crystals with high concentrations of halide ions (Br- and I-) for phasing by anomalous dispersion. This latter method has been adopted by many subsequent investigators to solve novel macromolecular structures, including ones intransigent to other methods. 


He is a sought-after lecturer and workshop instructor, and indeed he has assisted even the most experienced crystallographers in their work through his insights presented in his keynote and plenary lectures. Along with his colleagues he applies his crystallographic exptertise to indentify / correct errors in published macromolecular crystal structures. His extraordinary depth of understanding also comes to the fore in his longstanding work as a Section Editor of the biological crystallography section (D) of Acta Crystallographica, where he handles papers expeditiously and provides substantial insight. He is, as well, very much involved in advisory committees for synchrotron facilities. Zbigniew is also an extraordinary teacher. He has answered the call to take part in numerous workshops on data collection where he has left an indelible imprint on the minds of emerging crystallographers. He has also delivered many plenary lectures at international conferences where, in his inimitable style, he both educates and entertains.


Zbigniew is an exceptionally productive scientist working in diverse areas of crystallography; indeed he is one of the very rare examples of a crystallographer who has published in all the sections of Acta Crystallographica. Zbigniew Dauter embodies the positive spirit of scientific research at all levels, in depth and in breadth, and fulfils the vision of the ACA Patterson Award To recognize and encourage outstanding research in the structure of matter by diffraction methods, including the methodology of structure determination and/or innovative application of diffraction methods.


The award presentation and Dr. Dauter's lecture is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 at 8:00am.




David Rognlie Award to Helen M. Berman

Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, Center for Integrative Proteomics Research

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Helen Berman received her PhD in Chemistry in 1967 from the University of Pittsburgh under the direction of George Jeffrey, and stayed on for postdoctoral training as a National Institutes of Health Trainee. In 1969, she joined the Fox Chase Cancer Center, where her research program focused on nucleic acid crystallography. In 1989, she joined the faculty at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where she is now a Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. At Rutgers, she studied collagen and protein-nucleic acid complexes in addition to nucleic acids, and at the same time developed structural databases and ontologies.

Helen has been a champion for open access to scientific information since the concept of data sharing was in its infancy. Beginning in 1971, she played an influential role in the initiation and early development of the Protein Data Bank (PDB), first operated by Brookhaven National Laboratory.For nearly five-decades she has been committed to ensuring that the PDB archive has been a resource created by, and for, the community. As head of the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics (RCSB), Helen became the Director of the PDB in 1998, and developed the RCSB PDB into a vital and key resource for biology and education ( The primary reference for the RCSB PDB (Nucleic Acids Research, 2000, 28: 235-242) has been cited over 20,000 times and was included in Nature's 2014 list of the 100 most-cited papers as tracked by the Web of Science. Today, she serves the RCSB PDB as Director Emerita and Associate Director.


In 2003, Helen formed the Worldwide PDB with groups in the UK and Japan to ensure that a single PDB archive woiuld continue to be freely and publicly available to the global community ( Her passion for making structural data accessible and understandable by a broad community has driven the development of other bioinformatics resources, ontologies, and community-driven validation standards. Other biological data management projects include EMDataBank, a global deposition and retrieval network for 3DEM maps, models, and associated metadata, and the Structural Biology Knowledgebase (SBKB), an online resource that combines the results from the NIH-funded Protein Structure Initiative research with external data annotations to provide comprehensive information about proteins. As part of the SBKB, the BioSync resource provides up-to-date information on over 130 beamlines at worldwide synchrotron radiation facilities where biological macromolecules are studied.


In parallel to her research, Berman is extremely active in the community, and serves on a variety of advisory committees, professional societies, and editorial boards. Helen has already garnered significant national recognition and numerous awards, including a Fellow of the International Society of Computational Biology (2016); the DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2013); the Carl Brändén Award from the Protein Society (2012); a Fellow of the American Crystallographic Association (2011); the Department of Chemistry Alumni Award from the University of Pittsburgh (2010); the Distinguished Lecturer Award from Sigma Xi (2007-2009); the Martin J. Buerger Award from the American Crystallographic Association (2006); and a Distinguished Service Award from the Biophysical Society(2000).


The award presentation and Dr. Berman's lecture is scheduled for Monday, May 29 at 8:00am. 





Elizabeth Wood Science Writing Award to James O'Brien

Professor Emeritus

Missouri State University


 James F. O'Brien began his academic career as a physical chemist at Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State College) in 1969. O'Brien was a highly respected faculty member as noted by both his peers and his students. He won three teaching awards during his career including the Governor of Missouri's Award for Teaching Excellence (2001). He earned two terms as a distinguished scholar between 1991 and 2001. In 2002 he was granted the status of Distinguished Professor - the highest status awarded to faculty at Missouri State University. During his academic career he published thirty-one papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented 84 times at professional chemistry conferences. Early in his career O'Brien began presenting general lectures as part of the American Chemical Society speaker series. He has given two hundred ninety-three invited talks at seminars, banquets, meetings, etc., including 135 Sherlock Holmes lectures and 136 "Famous Mad Hatter" talks. The "Famous Mad Hatter" talks are about mercury poisoning.


He retired in 2003 and in 2010 he was elected the Missouri State University Wall of Fame. This recognizes and honors employees who have excelled at Missouri State and significantly contributed to the success and positive collegiate experience of students. While Missouri State University has had many outstanding employees during its long history, the intention of the Wall of Fame is to recognize those faculty and staff members who have had an impact on students that is considered truly noteworthy.


O'Brien's writing for the general public has focused on Sherlock Holmes. The book The Scientific Sherlock Holmes (J. F. O'Brien, Oxford University Press) won a national award - an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America as the best book of 2013 in the critical/biographical category. In addition O'Brien has written three articles that have appeared in The Baker Street Journal and an invited piece for the Encyclopedia Britannica -  Other Holmes articles were featured on the cover of the June 1993 issue of the science journal Chemistry and Industry and in the Huffington Post - A chapter on Holmes was included in the book Chemistry and Science Fiction (1998).  O'Brien's latest work - a chapter entitled Sherlock Holmes: Forensic Science Pioneer has been accepted for a forthcoming book (2016).


The award presentation and Dr. O'Brien's lecture, entitled, "Famous Mad Hatters" is scheduled for Tuesday, May 30, during the closing banquet.




Etter Early Career Award Christine Dunham

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry

Emory University School of Medicine


Christine Dunham, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Emory University and ACA member, is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret C. Etter Early Career Award, which recognizes "outstanding achievement and exceptional potential in crystallographic research demonstrated by a scientist at an early stage of their independent career."


At Emory Christine and her group use structural techniques, mainly x-ray crystallography and cryo-EM, to understand how proteins are synthesized in bacteria and how the process is regulated in conditions of stress. In particular, she is interested in unraveling the molecular basis of frameshift errors, which arise when the ribosome reads a shifted sequence of the messenger RNA, thus producing an alternative protein sequence. She is also investigating the role of a specific protein pair, the toxin-antitoxin system, in persistency, a latent state that bacteria enter when they are in specific stress conditions and that is characterized by repression of protein translation. Finally, her lab is also keen on understanding RNA modification and its link to antibiotic resistance.


Christine obtained a bachelor's degree in biochemistry at Barnard in New York City, and later pursued her PhD from the University of California Santa Cruz, under the mentorship of William Scott. She then moved across the pond to take up an extremely productive post-doctoral position in structural biology at the MRC in Cambridge, UK, with Venki Ramakrishnan, after which she started her independent career at Emory.


The award presentation and Dr. Dunham's lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, May 30, at 8:00am.