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Young investigator earns Air Force award

December 12, 2007

Anne Katherine Jones, an ASU assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been awarded a grant totaling $351,244 over a three-year period as part of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s Young Investigator Research Program.

Jones’ research proposal involves the engineering of enzymes, which lie at the heart of many crucial biological processes. Understanding the biochemistry and biophysics of catalysis by these systems at a molecular level is essential to exploiting these catalysts in military and civilian applications, such as disease detection and prevention, industrial catalysis and bio-inspired renewable energy generation.

“These complicated enzymes have proven difficult to study using traditional biochemical techniques,” Jones says. “The reaction we are trying to perform is the reduction of protons (called H cations) to form hydrogen gas, a clean-burning fuel. While this reaction is usually catalyzed via precious metals, biology performs the remarkable feat of hydrogen production using the base metal iron as a catalyst. This reaction is not only important with respect to sustainability or energy generating applications, it is a model reaction for all other more complicated redox processes that occur in biology.”

AFOSR recently announced that it would award $9.5 million in grants to 29 scientists and engineers who submitted winning research proposals through the Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program across the country.

“Anne Jones’ research is very promising, and we hope to establish close links with her activities as our institute develops,” says Regents’ Professor Austen Angell, who, with Cody Friesen of the Materials Engineering Department, leads the newly established Arizona Center for Renewable Energy Electrochemistry within the ASU Energy Research Institute.