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New professor receives $30,000 Dreyfus award

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
New professor receives $30,000 Dreyfus award

By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer

 

This summer, John Finke, assistant professor of chemistry, just accepted a job at Oakland University and was driving across country when he stopped to check his e-mail and learned he received the Dreyfus Foundation Faculty Startup Award, a $30,000 research award for new professors. Driving through Montana, with forest fires creating smoke along the road, Finke pulled over at the nearest payphone and confirmed the good news.

 

Coming into his new position at OU, Finke had been looking for grants in the chemistry and biochemistry area so he could study the protein Abeta, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Using a process called florescence to make microscopic measurements of molecules, Finke hopes to be able to computationally generate an image of the protein that can be used to identify drugs that may help in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

 

“I really wanted to emphasize that I was working with techniques that were very promising but still untested in important areas of bioscience,” said Finke of his grant proposal to the Dreyfus Foundation. “My research is focused on one of the more challenging protein structure problems, but my approach should give us a three-dimensional picture of the Abeta protein.”

 

The research grant allows Finke to purchase the equipment he needs to get his research moving. Finke said he intends for a majority of the work to be done by graduate and undergraduate students. 

 

Up until he accepted the position at OU, Finke worked as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California San Diego, where he also completed his graduate work in protein folding and his post-doctoral work in computational modeling of proteins.

 

While he initially began studying how proteins fold into the correct shape, he became increasingly interested in how proteins “misfold” and began studying the shape of the defective proteins. Finke said he also wants to model the normal interaction between different biological molecules as well.

 

Just a few weeks into the semester, Finke already feels he has support in his efforts.

 

“It’s very encouraging that Oakland University and the Dreyfus Foundation are committed to supporting scientists who bring different fields of research together,” he said.