UCSC biochemist Olof Einarsdottir honored by American Association for the Advancement of Science

Olof Einarsdottir, professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 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 peers.

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 programs.


Note to reporters: You may contact Einarsdottir at (831) 459-3155 or olof@chemistry.ucsc.edu.