Martin Gruebele will be awarded the 2017 Nakanishi Prize at the Plenary ACS National Award Ceremony for his landmark spectroscopic studies showing how proteins initiate their folding on ultrafast time scales and how they fold in individual living cells. The Gruebele group uses lasers, microscopy, and computational approaches to explore complex biochemical processes such as transport of unfolded proteins within a cell.
On his biggest research challenge, Gruebele replied, “Research requires patience. I’ve had several cases where it took five to eight years to develop an instrument to where it could produce novel results about important problems like glassy dynamics or in-cell reactions of proteins. We live in a climate where everything needs to be commercializable immediately, and it’s just not always possible with the big scientific questions. Who would have guessed in 1915 that formulas based on general relativity theory would eventually end up being programmed into small hand-held wireless communications devices, called cell phones, to pin down their location?”
The Nakanishi Prize recognizes significant work that extends chemical and spectroscopic methods to the study of important biological phenomena. The prize was established in 1995 by the students and colleagues of Koji Nakanishi in the United States and Japan and by members of the scientific community of both countries who have benefited by his nurturing of collaborative and interdisciplinary science. Consequently the prize is given in the U.S. and in Japan in alternate years through the designated Societies. The separate endowments are administered accordingly.