Rice biophysicist honored by American Physical Society for protein folding research

The American Physical Society (APS) has awarded Rice biophysicist José Onuchic the 2019 Max Delbrück Prize in Biological Physics.

Onuchic, the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Chair of Physics and a professor of physics and astronomy, of chemistry and of biosciences and co-director of Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP), was awarded the prize along with Stony Brook University’s Ken Dill for their individual contributions to protein folding research.

José Onuchic

José Onuchic

Discoveries by Onuchic resulted in “a new view of protein folding, from the introduction and exploration of simple models to detailed confrontations between theory and experiment,” the society said.

Onuchic works at the intersection of biology and physics, primarily through theoretical and computational analysis of problems varying from molecular to multicell levels. He made major contributions to protein folding and function, molecular machines and electron transfer in biomolecules. He is also interested in stochastic effects in genetic networks with applications to bacteria decision-making and cancer.

Onuchic is currently modeling the 3D structure of the human genome. Onuchic and his CTBP colleagues applied sophisticated models to predict how chromosomes fold based on epigenetic markers associated with a cell’s DNA.

The Max Delbrück Prize, established in 1981, is awarded by the APS’s Division of Biological Physics to encourage outstanding achievement in biological physics research. The award consists of $10,000, an allowance for travel to the meeting where the prize is awarded and a certificate.

Onuchic is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Biophysical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.