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R&D Magazine's 2010 Scientist of the Year

November 15, 2010 - 2:35pm


Dr. Richard Smith

Dr. Richard Smith

We have a winner! R&D Magazine just selected Department of Energy researcher Richard Smith as its 2010 Scientist of the Year. 

Dr. Smith, a biochemist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), is the first department scientist to achieve this honor. His work has focused on problem proteins, which are good cellular machines gone bad. Dr. Smith has discovered faster and better ways to find those problem proteins, and in doing so, has helped the scientific community take new steps toward potential cures.

There’s more to proteins than simply your conceptual nuts and bolts. There are a vast variety of them, with an extraordinary range of structures and functions. Dr. Smith has dedicated much of his career to studying those structures and functions. He’s a leader in the field of proteomics, which studies proteins at work within cells, tissues and organisms.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Smith has been an essential part of efforts to speed the discovery and identification of rare and problem proteins. The techniques developed by him and his collaborators have led to a better understanding of the origins of Parkinson’s Disease, and may also show the way to a quicker and faster diagnosis of liver disease and some forms of cancer. In addition to his work on problem proteins, Dr. Smith has also been a master of microbes – the critters people often think of when using your common hand sanitizing soaps. He’s examined how bacteria and viruses may cause sickness, looked at how large communities of microbes affect our environment and even studied how microbes might be used to make biofuels.

Over the last 25 years, he’s authored more than 700 peer-reviewed papers -- this year’s titles ranging from The Ion Funnel: Theory, Implementations and Applications to Identification of Disulfide Bonds in Protein Proteolytic Degradation Products Using de Novo-Protein Unique Sequence Tags Approach -- and presented more than 300 invited or plenary lectures at national and international scientific meetings.

But Dr. Smith is more than an award-winning scientist. He’s also a mentor and inventor. A holder of 38 patents, he was honored as “PNNL Inventor of the Year” for Fiscal Year 2008 in recognition of his work in developing and applying advanced analytical methods and instrumentation to environmental, biological and biomedical research. In 2000, he was named both “Battelle Inventor of the Year” and “PNNL Mentor of the Year.”

Dr. Smith has done all of that, and much more. So the Department of Energy and the Office of Science are proud to salute a mentor and inventor, a brilliant biochemist undaunted by the challenge of discovering the disease paths of problem proteins and winner of R&D Magazine’s 2010 Scientist of the Year.