Professor earns prestigious Early Career Award from Department of Energy

Anne Katherine Jones

Anne Katherine Jones, an assistant professor in ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis, has recently earned a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Early Career Award. This is a first for an Arizona university.

The DOE Early Career Research Program, now in its fourth year, supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Jones’s research project will characterize a group of enzymes, biological catalysts, known as soluble [nickel iron]-hydrogenases.

“These protein catalysts are the lynchpins of biological hydrogen production by a wide range of different microorganisms. Studies of these enzymes may lead to improvements in bio-hydrogen production and utilization,” Jones explained.

"Microorganisms use and produce fuels by moving around electrons, electricity. They have found ways to couple the chemistry of producing fuels directly to electricity using catalysts based only on earth abundant, renewable materials. We would like to be able to either use these natural processes as blueprints to develop new bioenergetic pathways or to develop bio-inspired catalysts, but many basic questions regarding how these proteins work remain unanswered. This project utilizes electrochemical techniques to characterize the catalytic process at a molecular level and to start filling in details of how catalytic properties can be controlled and manipulated,” continued Jones.

Understanding the biochemistry and biophysics of catalysis by these systems at a molecular level is essential to exploiting such catalysts in military and civilian applications, for example, disease detection and prevention, industrial catalysis, and bio-inspired renewable energy generation.

“Anne Jones has extended a fine departmental tradition of winning such awards – several department members currently hold NSF CAREER awards, but this is the first from the DOE. It is one of the DOE’s premier funding competitions, and one that is directed toward young faculty members just starting their professional careers,” stated Daniel Buttry, chair of the department of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Career awards provide a good example of the economic benefit that a research university can bring to its state. This award will provide $750,000 of research funding over the next five years. Each year, Arizona universities pour nearly $1 billion into the Arizona economy from their research activities, most of which are funded by the U.S. government and entities from outside the state. Research money brought in by universities is restricted money that can be used only for the research activity it supports.

Additional information about the DOE Early Career Research program including a complete list of fiscal year 2012 awardees can be found at


Anne Jones,
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