At the CO-LABS' 2017 Governor's Awards for High Impact Research Thursday October 5, 2017, JILA Fellow Tom Perkins received a plaque commemorating his work described as New Twists in the Molecules of Life.
This year’s ninth annual event honored Colorado’s top scientists and engineers for projects that have had a significant impact on society. “The projects in this year’s CO-LABS High-Impact Awards spotlight are what makes Colorado a leader in innovation,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “It’s terrific to see research advance its partnerships with the private sector. I congratulate the scientific teams for their groundbreaking work and am excited to see the mark they will leave on our state and society as a whole.”
In a decade long project, Perkins developed powerful new tools to measure and study individual biomolecules. He then partnered with the biotech industry to develop tools to improve the measurement and understanding of the structure and function of single proteins and nucleic acids, which play key roles in the biophysics and biochemistry of life. Amazingly, Perkins’ new tools can probe these key biomolecules in real time and under real world conditions.
Starting with an ordinary atomic-force microscope (AFM), Perkins painstakingly modified the AFM cantilevers to make the world’s most precise measurements of the structural components of individual proteins and nucleic acids. Today, he watches these large, complex molecules fold and unfold as they perform normal biological functions. His new AFM technology can completely analyze the folding and unfolding of a biomolecule in 2–3 days, a process that once took months of work.
The awards ceremony and reception was held at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Perkins attended the ceremony last night with his wife, Alden Perkins.
Three more awards celebrated innovative techniques in GPS, improvements of scanning electron microscopes, and the development of true-color imagery for geostationary satellites.