Structural Biochemistry/Paul D. Boyer

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Paul D. Boyer

Paul Delos Boyer (born July 31, 1918) is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles in biochemsitry as well as the 1997 Nobel Prize of Chemistry winner for his work with ATP (adenosine triphosphate) synthesis.

Early Life[edit]

Paul D. Boyer was born in Provo, Utah to Dell Delos Boyer and Grace Guymon. Although raised in an area with a strong Mormon community, Boyer was considered non-practicing. Because many of his developing years were spent during the Great Depression, Boyer learned early on the meaning of hard work and perseverance towards a goal. He attended Provo High School, where through his continued service on the debate team and student government, he eventually became the senior class president. Upon graduating from his high school as valedictorian, Boyer attended Brigham Young University, where he received a B.S. in chemistry. It was here that he met his wife, Lyda Whicker, whom he married on August 31, 1939, five days before they would leave for Wisconsin for Boyer to start his graduate studies.

Research Career[edit]

University of Wisconsin[edit]

Boyer enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the outstanding biochemistry department. It was here that he really developed an interest in enzymology and metabolism, which would eventually become his main research focus. Because of the new biochemistry wing that had just finished construction, Boyer had the opportunity to attend symposiums on biochemistry from some of the great biochemical minds of the time.

Stanford University[edit]

Upon being granted his Ph.D. in 1943, Boyer headed to Stanford University to work on a war project. Here he studied albumin serums from blood plasma that were used to treat shock on the battlefield. The problem with these serums was that upon being heated to kill viruses and microorganisms, the solutions would be come cloudy and the proteins denatured. This was where the research was needed to improve the serum to the point that the proteins would remain stable even under heat. Eventually, Boyer and his team discovered that long chain fatty acids stabilized the serums significantly better than any other compounds, and that these fatty acid chains could even reverse denaturation in some cases.

University of Minnesota[edit]

The next phase of Boyer's career would take him to the University of Minnesota, where he was offered an Assistant Professor position because of his work at Stanford. Here, he focused his research on biochemistry, more specifically enzymes. He eventually had the opportunity to accept a position on the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955, allowing him to work in Sweeden with Nobel Prize winner Hugo Theorell. That same year, he was awarded the Award in Enzyme Chemistry by the American Chemistry Society. He took up a professorship at the medical school at the University of Minnesota, and spent much of his research time on enzymes again. While his research was not yet focused on the ATP synthase that would eventually win him the Nobel Prize, he had a keen interest in the subject and worked with oxidative phosphorylation pathways whenever he had the chance.

UCLA and the Molecular Biology Institute[edit]

In 1963, Boyer and a select group of graduate students were sent to Los Angeles to open a new wing of the chemistry building at UCLA. It was on this trip that the allure of California became too much for Boyer to ignore anymore, and in 1965, he became the director of the Molecular Biology Institute (MBI) at UCLA. On the trip in 1963, Boyer discovered that phosphohisitidine was not a key to oxidative phosphorylation, but actually an intermediate in substrate level phosphorylation. This discovery, as well as his newfound resources available at the MBI led him to discover the binding charge mechanism for ATP synthesis. Despite discovering this in 1963, it took many years before it would be come generally accepted in the science community, and it took even longer for him to win his Nobel Prize, in 1997.

Post Research and Retirement[edit]

In 1990, Boyer became a professor emeritus at UCLA. He has a house near campus, where he and his wife live. They have three children, and eight grandchildren. The grandchildren who went to UCLA have stayed at his house during their time at the school.

References[edit]