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New Lecture Series Focuses on Chemistry-Biology Interface

By Ann Dieffenbach

Dr. Keith Woerpel, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine, will give the first talk in a new lecture series at NIH focusing on the integral role of chemistry in biomedical research. His talk, entitled, "Learning About Strained-Ring Silicon Compounds: From Reactive Intermediates to Organic Synthesis," will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Apr. 8, in Bldg. 1's Wilson Hall. The lecture series is sponsored by NIH and the American Chemical Society.

Woerpel is an organic chemist who was one of 10 NIH principal investigators to receive the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in December 1996. This new award recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who are at early stages in their careers and show exceptional potential for leadership.

Woerpel's research combines elements of organic and organometallic chemistry, with emphasis on developing new, stereoselective carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions. With support from NIGMS, his laboratory is investigating the chemistry of organosilicon compounds as part of what he describes as a larger effort "to uncover and understand new reactivity patterns and to develop them into powerful synthetic tools."

Dr. Keith Woerpel

He received a B.S. degree from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University, where he studied with Dr. David Evans. He then spent 2 years as an NIGMS-funded postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Bergman at the University of California, Berkeley. Woerpel has been a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, since 1994.

Dr. John Schwab, a program director in the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry, is an organizer of the new lecture series. He said, "The series is being called 'Chemistry: A Life Science' in order to draw attention to the opportunities for scientific synergism between chemists and other life scientists. We plan to invite world-class scientists whose research illustrates the applications of chemistry -- including organic, bioorganic, inorganic, medicinal and biochemistry -- to challenging problems in biomedical research. Our hope is that the seminar series will stimulate interdisciplinary communication and research efforts in this critical interface area, which currently appears to be underemphasized within the NIH intramural program."

Other NIH scientists who were instrumental in the creation of the lecture series are Drs. Kenneth Kirk, Kenneth Jacobson, and John Daly, all of NIDDK, and Dr. Michael Rogers of NIGMS. The NIDDK scientists and Schwab are also among those who are setting up a chemistry interest group at NIH. A World Wide Web site for this interest group ("CHEMIG") is located at http://chem.info.nih.gov/chemig.

The second lecture in the series will be presented on Monday, May 19 by Dr. Daniel Kahne, a professor of chemistry at Princeton University. Particularly interested in carbohydrate-mediated recognition phenomena, he has recently developed methods for the combinatorial synthesis and screening of oligosaccharide libraries. His research has been supported by NIGMS for the past 7 years.

Lectures and occasional mini-symposia in the "Chemistry: A Life Science" series will be held monthly from September through May, and will be announced in the NIH Calendar of Events as well as on the Chemistry Interest Group home page. All lectures will be open to scientists from other federal laboratories as well as those from nearby universities and research institutions. In addition to giving a lecture, each speaker will schedule time to meet with interested intramural and extramural scientists at NIH. For more information, contact Schwab, 4-5560.


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