Science faculty win major Purdue research awards


Two College of Science professors earned much-deserved Purdue accolades in November.

The McCoy Award, established in 1964, was given to Dr. Arun K. Ghosh, the Ian P. Rothwell Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. One of the oldest and most revered awards on campus, this honor goes to a student or faculty member making the greatest contribution of the year to the natural sciences. Ghosh was considered for his work in in broad areas of chemistry and medicinal chemistry, which includes 50 patents, a drug named Darunavir that he created for treatment of HIV/AIDS patients and patent applications for more inhibitors of HIV, SARS, Alzheimer's Disease and cancers.

Ghosh's process in developing molecular scaffolds and templates for drug development is inspired by nature. He hypothesized that maximizing interactions in the enzyme active site is vital. Ghosh developed the "backbone binding" concept while creating HIV protease inhibitors to combat drug resistance.

“Our chemical syntheses of medicinally important natural products and exploration of their function brought a unique perspective to our team’s drug design using the protein X-ray structure as a guide,” Ghosh stated. “We sought to develop innovative molecular probes against proteins implicated in the pathogenesis of human diseases.

During a Nov. 9 lecture in Purdue’s Fowler Hall, Ghosh detailed his latest work in the talk “Harnessing Nature’s Insight: Molecules and Molecular Design in Today’s Medicine.”

Dr. Wojciech Szpankowski, the Saul Rosen professor of Computer Science, was honored with the inaugural Bement Award, which will now recognize a Purdue faculty member for recent outstanding accomplishments in pure and applied science and engineering. Arden L. Bement Jr., the award’s namesake, achieved international recognition as director of the National Science Foundation and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Szpankowski was chosen for this award for his internationally renowned analysis of algorithms, information theory, bioinformatics, analytic combinatorics and stability problems of distributed systems. The native of Poland recently published his second book, “Analytic Pattern Matching: From DNA to Twitter.”

While Twitter shares the title of the new book, Szpankowski went back to what he considers the dawn of the digital age during his Nov. 9 talk in Fowler Hall – “Shannon Information Theory and Beyond.” Claude Shannon is credited for introducing information theory in 1948, which Szpankowski sees as the formal basis for modern digital communication and storage systems. With some updates, Shannon’s work can be applied to modern-day principals. Szpankowski’s work looked at “noisy constrained capacity,” which was left open in Shannon’s theory.  

“This problem finds applications ranging from state of the art storage technologies to computational biology,” Szpankowski stated.

Soon after receiving the Bement, Szpankowski received distinguished professor honors. 

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