November 8, 2002

National groups honor Armstrong for enzyme work, leadership ability

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Richard N. Armstrong, Ph.D.

National groups honor Armstrong for enzyme work, leadership ability

Richard N. Armstrong, Ph.D. has been twice honored in recent weeks by national scientific associations. He was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and elected chair of the division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Armstrong, professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, is being honored as an AAAS Fellow for his contributions to understanding how enzymes work, particularly those that are involved in detoxication reactions. He is one of 291 new AAAS Fellows selected because their efforts toward advancing science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.

“I greatly appreciate the honor,” Armstrong said, “but it is really a reflection of the terrific group of students and postdoctoral fellows I have had the good fortune to work with.”

Armstrong’s election as chair of the ACS division of Biological Chemistry means that he will preside over governance of the division, including its budget and annual meeting. He will assume this leadership role in September 2003.

Armstrong is a leading investigator in the area of mechanistic enzymology — determining how enzymes work. He has focused on the enzymes involved in metabolizing foreign molecules, such as drugs, toxins, and other chemicals. These enzymes, known as detoxication enzymes, are essential to an organism’s ability to resist chemical insults.

In bacteria, these kinds of enzymes can contribute to the ability of bacteria to become antibiotic resistant. Armstrong hopes that understanding the catalytic mechanisms and structures of these bacterial enzymes will lead to the design of new drugs to counter antibiotic resistance.

Armstrong earned his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry from Marquette University. He completed postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago and was a Staff Fellow in the Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry at the National Institutes of Health. He was on the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park for 15 years before coming to Vanderbilt in 1995.

Armstrong is a Council Member of the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics and a Councilor of the American Chemical Society. He is one of 15 associate editors of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the only associate editor with a primary faculty appointment in a School of Medicine.

The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world’s largest federation of scientists. With more than 134,000 individual members and 272 affiliated societies, the association works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs and publications. The tradition of AAAS Fellows distinction began in 1874. Armstrong joins a group of 27 current and emeriti Vanderbilt faculty members who are Fellows of the AAAS.

The ACS is the largest scientific society in the world, with more than 163,000 individual members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry. The organization, founded in 1876, encourages the advancement of the chemical enterprise and its practitioners.