April 26, 2021
The Journal of Physical Chemistry and the Physical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society recognized University of Illinois chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Diwakar Shukla with the Journal of Physical Chemistry and PHYS Division Lectureship Award for his contributions to the field.
“It is a special honor for me because The Journal of Physical Chemistry has been my preferred place for publishing fundamental, mechanistic, and methodological papers,” said Shukla, a Blue Waters assistant professor. “The award not only recognizes my efforts but also contributions from numerous co-authors over the years, especially students, mentors, and collaborators.”
This award honors investigators who have made major impacts on the field of physical chemistry in the research areas associated with each section of the journal – JPC A, JPC B, and JPC C. The Lectureship Award will be presented to Shukla during the PHYS Division Awards Symposium at Fall 2021 ACS meeting, where the winner gives an invited lecture.
Shukla’s research is at the intersection of physical chemistry and plant biology. He develops physics-based simulations that provide detailed information about the structure and dynamics of molecular machinery in plants. He aims to understand the sequence-structure-function relationship of plant proteins and fill in large gaps in protein databases that are required for modeling. His research group has published a total of 35 papers in physical chemistry-related journals published by ACS.
Shukla said that despite the broad utility of biophysical modeling and increased use of computational tools within the field of plant biology, out of some 52 million protein sequences available in the UniProt database, only 200,000 (< 0.5%) have structures deposited in Protein Data Bank—and only 4,000 (2%) of these structures are of plant proteins.
“A key advance would be the availability of tools that could help in rapid structural characterization of protein conformational ensemble,” Shukla said. “These tools could employ a combination of experimental spectroscopic techniques, artificial intelligence, molecular simulations to infer structure-function relationship for proteins.”
Shukla earned a bachelor’s and master’s of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay, India. He went on to earn a master’s of science and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, he has been recognized by several awards including the National Science Foundation Early CAREER award; OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award in Computational Chemistry from the ACS, and the Sloan Research Fellowship in Chemistry.
Other UIUC winners of the 2021 ACS Division of Physical Chemistry awards include chemistry professor Nancy Makri, who is the recipient of the Award in Theoretical Chemistry.
Check out the ACS announcement to learn more about the Lectureship Award recipients, including Shukla.
Written by Claire Benjamin, Associate Director of Communications