He studies how proteins change in reaction to drugs

John R. Engen, the James L. Waters chair in analytical chemistry and distinguished professor of chemistry and chemical biology, has received the Excellence in Research and Creative Activity Award for his contributions to the field of mass spectrometry, a technique used to measure the weight and structure of molecules.

Engen uses mass spectrometry to study proteins, and specifically, how they change shape in reaction to drugs or disease. Engen’s lab collaborates with numerous pharmaceutical companies and academic research labs to identify the characteristics of specific proteins, an integral step in determining the cause of a disease or the way a drug will work, for example.

“Could you store this therapeutic protein in a freezer for six months, and will it be exactly the same when you take it out as when you put it in? These are the kinds of questions we can answer,” Engen says.

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