June 27, 2019 | 84° F

Rutgers Professor receives Award for Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research

If David Case was young again, he said he would be interested in looking into applications of chemistry to materials and nanotechnology.

Case, a distinguished professor in Rutgers University Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, will receive the American Chemical Society’s 2015 Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research for his scientific contributions. 

Case’s areas of interest include molecular dynamics simulations of proteins and nucleic acids, electronic structure calculations of transition-metal complexes, ligand protein and ligand-nucleic acid docking and computational drug design, according to the Rutgers Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology website. 

“We use computers to help understand the properties of proteins and nucleic acids, which are large molecules that are important in living cells,” Case said. “Our primary impact is in helping people doing ‘real’ biochemical experiments, particularly those using X-ray crystallography or nuclear magnetic resonance to interpret their results.”

John Brennan, chair of the Rutgers Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, said Case’s work makes it easier to understand how and why biomolecules like proteins, enzymes, DNA and RNA do what they do.  

“While there are numerous applications, the most obvious would be that with this information, it becomes easier to rationally design new drugs or improve the efficiency and safety of older drugs,” Brennan said.

Case conducts his research at the Rutgers Center for Integrative Proteomics Research, located on Busch Campus. The center implements NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and hardware for high performance computing, according to the RDCB website. 

Computing, an integral part of Case’s research as a theoretical and computational chemist, has become an essential component for research experts in science and medicine. 

Rahul Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the current methods of conducting biological studies are in need of technological advancements.

“If we can speed up certain research processes, we could have knowledge and treatment options spread faster,” he said. “A lot of what we do right now is a modification of what our predecessors did before us. A major advance in the biological setting would be a game changer.”

Case, whose exceptional publication record has one of the highest citation records of any chemist nationally according to the RDCB website, reinforces the notion that familiarity with computers is important in the fields of science and medicine.

“Everyone in science or medicine needs to be familiar with computers, and basic computer programming should be a part of that training,” Case said. “Even basic statistical analysis of data can be done better by someone who can control what you want the computer to do.”

A member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the editorial board of Biopolymers since 1990, Case remains intrigued by the impact of chemistry on other fields of science and technology. 

“I will personally stick to biochemistry, but applications of chemistry to materials and to nanotechnology are areas I’d take a close look at if I were young again,” he said.

Tande Mungwa

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