December 4, 2006
Biochemist Olof Einarsdottir honored by
American Association for the Advancement of Science
By Marcus Woo
Olof Einarsdottir, professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry,
has been awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow by the American
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election
as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon members of AAAS by their
Einarsdottir is among 449 fellows elected this year for efforts
toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically
or socially distinguished. New fellows will be honored at a
ceremony on Saturday, February 17, at the Fellows Forum during
the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Einarsdottir was recognized for her work in understanding the
role of a key enzyme in respiration, called cytochrome oxidase,
which extracts energy from food molecules. In living cells,
nutrients are broken down in a series of reactions and the energy
is harnessed in the mitochondria, the power plants of the cells.
The reactions produce electrons, and cytochrome oxidase uses
the electrons to convert oxygen into water, a process that releases
energy. At the same time, the enzyme pumps positively-charged
particles (protons) across the inner membrane of the mitochondrion,
thus storing energy in a manner similar to charging a battery.
This then spurs another enzyme to make an energy-carrying molecule
called ATP that powers biological activity in living organisms.
Einarsdottir has led the way in developing a technique for
triggering the reaction of cytochrome oxidase with oxygen using
a laser. Rapid snapshots of the enzyme are then recorded in
order to dissect how the enzyme works. By taking snapshots as
fast as every 100 billionths of a second, Einarsdottir and her
coworkers are able to probe the chemical and molecular changes
underlying this fundamental process of biology.
This year's AAAS Fellows were announced in the November 24
issue of Science. The tradition of AAAS Fellows began
in 1874. AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world's largest general
scientific society. It publishes Science, which has the
largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science
journal in the world and an estimated one million readers. Its
mission is to "advance science and serve society"
through initiatives in science policy, education, and international