Adams Honored for Excellence in STEM Research and Mentoring

National organization recognizes chemist with national award

Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Paul Adams, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Arkansas. Photo by Russell Cothren.

Paul Adams, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Arkansas. Photo by Russell Cothren.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Growing up in southeastern Louisiana, Paul Adams never considered becoming a professional researcher. He planned to become a doctor.

“I did go to medical school for a year, but that’s when I thought about research as a career,” said Adams, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Arkansas.

Adams stuck with academia — he is in his seventh year on the faculty in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences — and now he has been recognized by a national organization for his work.

Adams has been selected for the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Research and Mentoring by the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).

“In getting a Ph.D., and running a research laboratory, I knew there were very few people in my field who looked like me, because minorities have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines,” Adams said. “Others have stressed to me that I can be seen as a role model. But I’ve never tried to relish in the fact that I am an African-American scientist. I’ve tried to relish in the fact that I am a scientist who happens to be African-American.”

The award honors those who achieve excellence in scientific research and maintain a steadfast commitment to developing future scientific leaders in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“To have my peers at the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers recognize me in this manner — not only doing good science but also considering me an example for what students coming up behind me are capable of achieving — it’s a surreal feeling,” Adams said.

Adams’ research focuses on Ras proteins, which have been identified in nearly one-third of cancer cell types. He believes that these proteins have unique structural aspects, which, in part, may play a role in causing cells to continue growing, a behavior that is a hallmark of cancer cells. By creating chemical differences in different parts of the protein, Adams and his research team hope to learn more about how the proteins work and affect the cells.

That information can then be used to help design drugs that target the specific protein and stop the cancerous behavior.

“We’ve published two papers directly related to the research and we had a collaboration that resulted in two more papers,” said Adams, who since coming to the university in 2007 has received more than $1.45 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

Adams’ research lab at the University of Arkansas includes one postdoctoral scientist, two graduate students and 10 undergraduates.

“Dr. Adams is great because he is so focused and also caring,” said junior Padma Manavazhahan, a Bodenhamer Fellow in Fulbright College. “Because of his solid drive and clarity, we learn so much working in his lab.”

Following his undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Louisiana State University, Adams earned a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from Case Western Reserve University and held a National Science Foundation Fellowship from 2003-2006 as a postdoctoral researcher at the department of molecular medicine at Cornell University.

Adams will accept his award on Oct. 4 at the 40th National NOBCChE Conference in Indianapolis.

NOBCChE (pronounced no-buh-shay) was incorporated in 1975. Its mission is to build a community of distinguished minority scientists and engineers. It offers a multiple of programs designed to foster professional development and encourage students to pursue fulfilling careers in science and technology.

Contacts:

Paul Adams, associate professor
chemistry and biochemistry
479-575-5621, pxa001@uark.edu

Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
University Relations
479-575-4737, cwbranam@uark.edu

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