Christine Keating Receives 2017 Faculty Scholar Medal

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10 April 2017

Christine Keating has been awarded the 2017 Faculty Scholar Medal in Life and Health Sciences. Established in 1980, the award recognizes scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme. A committee of peers reviews nominations and selects candidates.

As posted on Penn State News:

Through her research, Keating has shown how the fundamental molecules of life (proteins, nucleic acids, membranes, etc.) can spontaneously organize into enclosures with many of the properties of living cells. To build on this discovery, Keating shows how these cell mimics can undergo the equivalent of cell division. Keatings cell mimic work was also used to show that subcellular compartmentalization increases catalysis by an RNA enzyme and that phosphorylation of peptides bound to RNA can regulate the formation of non-membrane bound compartments within cells.

These discoveries increase our understanding of how a cell is organized and how processes critical for life depend on subcellular compartmentalization.

“This research on nonliving cell mimics provides new insight into the physical principles that determine the biological functions of living cells, and into one of the most outstanding questions of all science, which is how life began,” said a nominator and colleague.

Fundamental insights from Keating’s research on artificial cells are defining the possible ways in which the earliest cells (so-called “protocells”) could have emerged to replicate genetic materials and the cells themselves. These breakthroughs have led her to attain funding from NASA and her research group is building on protocell development and maintenance of biological functions.

Nominators describe Keating as “a stellar chemist with unparalleled expertise” who is blazing new trails with “new and exciting dimensions of chemistry.”

Past winners of the Faculty Scholar Medal from the Department of Chemistry include Squire Booker (2016), Mauricio Terrones (2016), John Badding (2015), Ray Schaak (2012), Phil Bevilacqua (2010), Marty Bollinger (2009), Ayusman Sen (2003), Xumu Zhang (2001), Wolfgang Ernst (1998), Andrew Ewing (1994), James Anderson (1992), Barbara Garrison (1990), and Nicholas Winograd (1985).