Sarah Keller receives Thomas E. Thompson Award

kellerSarah Keller has received the Thomas E. Thompson Award from the Biophysical Society. The Thomas E. Thompson Award recognizes an outstanding contribution in the field of membrane structure and assembly. Professor Keller received the award for her “contributions to our understanding of the lateral segregation of lipids into domains in membranes.” The award will be presented at the Membrane Structure & Assembly Subgroup 2014 Symposium on Saturday, February 15, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

For more information, see:

To learn more about Professor Keller, visit her faculty page and research group page.

Exploring the origins of life

Keller cover image_squareSarah Keller, working with Roy Black, affiliate professor of bioengineering, has helped to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the origin of cells in Earth’s ancient oceans. The work, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes the unexpected interaction of the chemical components of RNA and fatty acids and their role in stabilizing the precursors to cellular membranes.

The chemical components crucial to the start of life on Earth may have primed and protected each other in never-before-realized ways. That could mean a simpler scenario for how that first spark of life on the planet came about. Scientists have long thought that life started when the right combination of bases and sugars produced self-replicating ribonucleic acid, or RNA, inside a rudimentary ‘cell’ composed of fatty acids. Under the right conditions, fatty acids naturally form into bag-like structures similar to today’s cell membranes. In testing one of the fatty acids representative of those found before life began – decanoic acid – Keller and Black discovered that the four bases in RNA bound more readily to the decanoic acid than did the other seven bases tested. By concentrating more of the bases and sugar that are the building blocks of RNA, the system would have been primed for the next steps, reactions that led to RNA inside a bag.

Descriptions of the published research can be found on the UW News website and on Babbage, the science and technology blog of The Economist.

To learn more about Professor Keller, visit her faculty page and research group website.

Sarah Keller receives Mentor Award from UW Postdoctoral Association

Sarah Keller, professor of chemistry, adjunct professor of physics, and associate dean for research activities in the College of Arts and Sciences, has received the 2012 Mentor Award from the University of Washington Postdoctoral Association. The annual award, based on nominations from current and former postdocs, “recognizes one faculty member who provides extraordinary postdoctoral mentorship by demonstrating leadership, understanding, concern for professional development, encouragement, integrity, and dedication.” Keller also has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

For more information about Professor Keller and her research, please visit her faculty page or research group website.

Four Faculty Members Elected Fellows of AAAS

Four faculty members from the Department of Chemistry were among the 701 newly elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a Fellow of the AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members of the organization by their peers. The newly elected AAAS Fellows will be recognized for their contributions to science and technology at the Fellows Forum on February 16, 2013 during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

Eleven University of Washington researchers were among the 701 AAAS Fellows elected in 2012, including the following four from the Department of Chemistry:

David S. Ginger, Professor and Raymon E. and Rosellen M. Lawton Distinguished Scholar in Chemistry

D. Michael Heinekey, Professor of Chemistry

Sarah L. Keller, Professor of Chemistry and Associate Dean for Research Activities

František Tureček, Professor of Chemistry

For additional coverage of the UW researchers receiving this honor, please see the UW News article.

Sarah Keller Elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society

Sarah Keller, Professor of Chemistry, Adjunct Professor of Physics, and Associate Dean for Research Activities, was recently elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Professor Keller was nominated by the Division of Biological Physics “For her pioneering, fundamental contributions to the understanding of miscibility phase transitions in model surfactant and membrane systems”.

Newly elected APS Fellows number no more than one-half of one percent of Society membership and election is considered a distinct honor because the evaluation process, conducted by the Fellowship committees of individual divisions, topical groups and forums, is done entirely by one’s professional peers.

The list of 2011 Fellows will be published in the March 2012 issue of APS News and a list of all Fellows, past and present, can be
found at

Three chemistry faculty elected to Washington State Academy of Sciences

Three UW Department of Chemistry faculty members are among the 24 new members elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing scientific achievements. The Washington State Academy of Sciences provides expert scientific and engineering analysis to inform public policy-making, and works to increase the role and visibility of science in the State of Washington. The new members will be inducted into the WSAS at the fourth annual meeting at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA on September 22.

The newly-elected chemistry faculty are:

  • Sarah Keller, Department of Chemistry, Associate Dean for Research Activities, College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Alex K-Y Jen, Boeing/Johnson Chair and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering & Professor of Chemistry.
  • Usha Varanasi, Affiliate Professor, School of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences & Department of Chemistry.

Click to learn more about the Washington State Academy of Sciences.

Sarah Keller wins 2010 Avanti Young Investigator Award

Professor Sarah Keller has been named the recipient of the 2010 Avanti Young Investigator Award in Lipid Research, established by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Lipid Research Division.  Prof. Keller’s research focuses on how changes in membrane lipid composition can affect the activity of membrane proteins. The award consists of a plaque, $2,000 and transportation and expenses to present a lecture at the 2010 ASBMB Annual Meeting.

ASBMB press release

Prof. Keller’s faculty page and research group website.

Sarah Keller receives UW Distinguished Teaching Award

Associate Professor Sarah Keller has received a 2006 Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Washington. Keller was one of four faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences to receive an award, which “honors faculty who show a mastery of their subject matter, intellectual rigor, lively curiosity, a commitment to research, and a passion for teaching.”

For more information on Keller’s award, please see the original article from A&S Perspectives.

For information about Sarah Keller and her research program, please visit her faculty page or research group website.