Crystal Technology Wins Professor Prestigious Award

Harper- NSF crystal award

UCF Department of Chemistry assistant professor, James Harper, Ph.D., recently applied for and received the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award.

Awarded for his research on “Developing Accurate Crystallography Without Diffraction.”, this award is the NSF’s most prestigious award supporting junior faculty and will provide funding for a five-year period. This funding will be used to support two Ph.D. students and to provide the resources needed to further develop an NMR crystallography program at UCF.

This new research aims to address some of the most significant challenges that have yet to be solved in crystal structure prediction, including the inability of nearly all prediction software to accurately predict structure in flexible molecules and the failure of all programs to account for uncertainty in atom positions. Dr. Harper’s research will also explore the question of what kind of NMR data is most sensitive to crystal structure. The overall aim of the research is to significantly improve the ability of theoretical prediction software to create and select a correct structure from the hundreds of candidates.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program focuses on building a foundation that contributes to research and education. They focus on providing incentives to universities and increasing participation of those traditionally underrepresented in the science and engineering fields. CAREER and the National Science Foundation offers awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Dr. Harper’s work will help advance crystal structure prediction and the success in this research will be demonstrated by working with crystal structures of certain cephalosporin antibiotics. These widely used prescription drugs are considered to be one of medicine’s last defenses against serious infections. Yet, only one crystal structure has ever been reported for a cephalosporin despite the fact that they have been widely studied for over half a century and more than 60 cephalosporins are known.

Click here to watch a video describing Dr. Harper’s research.

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