Rochester Researcher Elected to Leadership Position in Key Scientific Organization

Pittsburgh Diffraction Society Leads Nation in Development of Revolutionary Technology

February 06, 2008

Joseph E. Wedekind, Ph.D.

Joseph E. Wedekind, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, has been elected as secretary of the Pittsburgh Diffraction Society (PDS). A scientific professional organization, the PDS focuses on the use of X-rays to investigate the structure of matter at the atomic level.

X-ray diffraction is one of the most important technologies in the new age of molecular biology, and has contributed greatly to the design of many next-generation pharmaceutical therapies. Energy is beamed at molecules and bounces of them (diffracts) in patterns that can be captured to reveal the structure of the molecule under study. Like many of his fellow PDS members, Wedekind conducts diffraction experiments in his lab that seek to create topographic maps “whose mountains and valleys describe the electron clouds that surround atoms comprising a molecule.”

“The landscape of a given molecule determines which molecules it can interact with, based on their shape,” said Wedekind. “Some of these interactions occur between molecules of the human body and those created by infectious disease agents like bacteria or viruses, for example. Being able to visualize and study the exact landscape of molecules enables the precision design of drugs that fit into them, in many cases shutting down a disease process.”

The PDS unites scientists from a broad number of disciplines such chemistry, materials science, biomedical engineering and medicine that employ the principles of diffraction to clarify molecular structures at the atomic level (0.1 to 1 billionth of a meter). The Society has an “illustrious” history of education, training and career development by contributing to educational workshops in X-ray crystallography, and providing a forum for data discussion at the annual meeting. The meeting also provides a venue to for the establishment of research collaborations, the institution of experimental standards and the unveiling of cutting-edge technologies, such as the new Spallation Neutron Source.

Among the duties of the secretary for PDS are keeping minutes at the annual board of directors meeting, disseminating statements of policy and record to PDS members, and serving as a member of the board responsible for steering PDS activities. Wedekind was elected in an on-line voting process open to the more than 300 PDS members. His term started on Jan.1, 2008, and runs for a year.

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