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March 2013—Johns Hopkins biophysicist Cynthia Wolberger, Ph.D., was awarded the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award by The Protein Society for her work in determining the structure of proteins involved in transcriptional regulation. She will be presented with the award on Monday, July 22 at the 27th annual symposium of The Protein Society in Boston.
Wolberger, a professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, studies how DNA packaging proteins—which coil DNA into neat, compact bundles in the cell—turn genes on or off, or initiate broken DNA repair. These DNA packaging proteins, aka histones, are called to action by the addition of chemical tags, like ubiquitin protein or acetyl chemical groups. To determine the structure of the histones and which chemical tags they use, Wolberger employs X-ray crystallography, a technique that allows researchers to develop three-dimensional models of proteins. Protein crystallography was founded by the namesake for Wolberger’s award, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, and resulted in her Nobel Prize.