Monthly Meeting Report
March 2014 Monthly Meeting Report
Report by Jack Driscoll, NESACS Public Relations Chair
Photos by Morton Z. Hoffman
The NESACS monthly meeting at the Marriott Courtyard on Memorial Drive in Cambridge was held on March 6, 2014. This was the first Thursday of the month instead of the second because of the proximity to the ACS National Meeting the next week.
When Professor Karplus was setting up the AV for his presentation, one of his students, Jay Portnow, came by to say hello. They had not seen each other for nearly 40 years. Jay had received his Ph.D., spent two years on a post-doc in Europe, then decided to go to medical school and specialize in treating pain. He has been a NESACS member for many years, but he had never been to a meeting before this. I told him about our Southeastern Massachusetts meeting on May 15, 2014 at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and he was very interested and said that he would be there.
The reception was held from 5:30 to 6:30 in the area outside the ballroom. I talked to another NESACS member, Marsha, who will be moving to Cape Cod this summer. I spoke to her about the NESACS outreach programs on the Cape. She was very interested in volunteering. We cannot have enough volunteers. We can use volunteers in SE MA, New Hampshire and the Greater Boston area.
At 6:30 we went into the ballroom for dinner. The room overlooked the Charles River and the tenderloin for dinner was excellent. We had 100 people come for the dinner.
At 7:30 pm, 50 people (mostly college students) who came for the lecture only filed in.
Dr. Cathy Costello, NESACS Chair, opened the 939th NESACS meeting, then turned it over to Dr. Jack Driscoll to introduce Prof. Karplus.
Prof Karplus started studying Chemistry and Physics at Harvard to better understand biology. He finished Harvard and went to Cal Tech to work for Nobel Laureate Prof. Linus Pauling, who said that Martin Karplus was the best student that he ever had. Prof. Karplus was only 23 when he received his Ph.D. and then spent two years as a post-doc in Oxford.
It was clear from his talk and his Nobel prize that when he returned to Harvard (after 5-year terms at both Univ. of IL and Columbia) as a Professor in 1966, his early love of biology returned (see article on Professor Karplus in the March issue of the Nucleus.
Prof. Karplus said he thought that he had talked at a NESACS meeting before, probably at the 600th meeting.
We had the opportunity to hear a Nobel type speech without going to Sweden. A video of his actual Nobel speech can be found at His Nobel address about the hydrogen exchange reaction was entitled “Development of Multiscale Molecules for Complex Systems: from H+H2 (hydrogen molecule ion) to Biomolecules.”
This talk was entitled “Motion: Hallmark of Life: From Molecules to Marsupials” and was more focused on his favorite biological models than his Nobel talk. The Nobel prize was presented to Professor Karplus and two colleagues as a result of his 1977 paper on protein folding [”Dynamics of Folded Proteins”, Nature 267, 585-590(1977).] and the frequent successful use of their CHARMM software program by other researchers. I was surprised that it took so long to award a Nobel Prize for this important breakthrough.
NESACS applied to the ACS and received a “Salute to Excellence” award for Professor Karplus. This was pre- sented to him after his fantastic presentation. l told him that this was clearly not the caliber of his Nobel Prize but it was an important award from us.
It was a very interesting talk and we had a lively question and answer session. Prof. Karplus took questions for nearly 25 minutes after the lecture.
I had at least a dozen people come to me after the lecture and say that this was the best NESACS meeting ever. Several people said that they were excited to come to future NESACS meeting.
Everyone was taking photos with the Nobel Laureate. My wife and I were no exception.
I talked with Prof. Karplus the day after the lecture. He had a very good time. He met a number of old friends and made some new friends and fans. He appreciated the questions and enjoyed presenting the lecture. He said that he was honored to receive the ACS “Salute to Excellence” Award. He said at the beginning of his lecture that he had given a talk at maybe the 600th NESACS meeting. He told me that he would like to come back and give a talk again at the 1200th NESACS meeting.