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ISSN: 1600-5775

Diamond gets its Life Science Director

Louise Johnson, David Phillips Professor in Molecular Biophysics at Oxford University, has joined the Diamond Light Source as Life Science Director from 1 October 2003. Louise[link] has taken up this appointment while keeping her responsibilities at Oxford and will be dividing her time equally between the two.

[Figure 1]
Figure 1
Professor Johnson

Professor Johnson has made distinguished contributions to protein crystallography and structural biology. Her book, Protein Crystallography, with Professor Sir Tom Blundell, published in 1976 by Academic Press, has been used by several generations of research students and crystallographers alike. Her research work and scientific leadership are held in high esteem internationally.

Louise Johnson gained her PhD in 1965 from the University of London. For her PhD she carried out one of the first crystallographic studies of complexes of lysozyme (an enzyme) and competitive inhibitors. Her results provided the first model of an enzyme–substrate complex and the first formulation of a stereochemical mechanism of enzyme catalysis. The significance of this work can be appreciated by an account by Max Perutz when writing an obituary of David Phillips [J. Synchrotron Rad. (1999), 6, 945–946 ], "Certain moments are deeply engraved in my memory. One is the Monday morning in March 1953 when Crick called me into his room to show me his and Jim Watson's double helical model of DNA which immediately revealed the molecular basis of heredity. Another is the moment when David Phillips, Louise Johnson and Charles Vernon made me first understand how an enzyme works." In the mid-1980s, using the Synchrotron Radiation Source at Daresbury, she solved the structure of glycogen phosphorylase, a large structure by the then standard (∼98 kD). She used this to promote the study of enzyme catalysis in crystals. Her work on this enzyme and its complexes has provided a deep insight into the control of enzyme activity by allosteric effectors and by reversible phosphorylation. More recently she has been addressing the problems of specificity and control of phosphorylase kinase, the enzyme that regulates phosphorylase.

She moved to Oxford in the mid-1970s where she was a Lecturer in Molecular Biophysics before being appointed David Phillips Professor of Molecular Biophysics and the Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990 and recently became a Dame in the Queen Elizabeth II honours list.

Professor Johnson commented, "I am delighted to be joining such an exciting scientific research organization. Since 1981, with the commissioning of the UK's first synchrotron facility at Daresbury, synchrotron light sources have revolutionized biological research. Diamond will be a significant upgrade on present resources".

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