Indian-American scientist bags top honours

January 12th, 2009 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 12 (IANS) Rama Ranganathan, professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, earned recognition as one of the top rising research stars by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).TAMEST members include the state’s Nobel Prize winners - four of whom are active faculty members at UT Southwestern - and the 200-plus Texas members of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences.

Ranganathan was named a recipient of one of three 2009 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards by the academy at its annual conference in Dallas.

Ranganathan is director of the Systems Biology Division of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational and Systems Biology at UT Southwestern, where he also holds the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Chair in Biomedical Science.

Each year, the O’Donnell Awards honour outstanding achievements by young investigators in science, medicine and engineering. Each award consists of a $25,000 honorarium, a citation and an inscribed statue.

Ranganathan received the award for science. His work aims to link basic research on molecules and cells with analysis of how biological systems function, both in health and in sickness.

The ultimate goal of this field of research is to understand how networks of interactions on various levels - from proteins and cells to tissues and organs - produce well-honed biological systems that are more than the sum of their parts.

“Dr Ranganathan embodies the best qualities of Texas science and the achievement this award seeks to recognize, rigorously pursuing important questions of cell science with innovative strategies,” said Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern.

Ranganathan’s research has focused in part on uncovering the most fundamental evolutionary design principles of living systems. By carefully examining how proteins have evolved over time, for example, he discovered a set of simple “rules” that nature appears to have used to design and manufacture proteins, which carry out all of life’s functions.

To test the rules he discerned, Ranganathan developed sophisticated computer programmes to then produce artificial proteins that look and function like their natural counterparts, said an UT release.

Ranganathan earned both his medical degree and his doctorate in biology from the University of California, San Diego, after receiving his bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from UC Berkeley. He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1997.

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