Jul 13, 2016
Atkinson and West
The first of the Daniel Atkinson & Charles West Prizes in Metabolic Biochemistry were presented to four biochemistry students at commencement ceremonies in June.                                             
 
Biochemistry graduate students Megan Sjodt (Robert Clubb group) and Andrea Hadjikyriacou (Steven Clarke group) and Biochemistry undergraduates Thao Luong (Carla Koehler group) and Hei Tong "Nikki" Lam (Cathy Clarke group) received the awards.
 
These awards were established to honor two UCLA chemistry faculty who were largely responsible for the development of biochemistry within the department. Daniel Atkinson and Charles West arrived at UCLA in 1952 and joined Max Dunn, who at that time was the only biochemist in the department. By the time they retired in the early 1990s, there were 18 biochemistry faculty members, and Atkinson and West had played major roles in recruiting most of them!
 
Both Atkinson and West were exceptionally valued by their faculty colleagues, the students in their laboratories, by the national and international research communities, and by the multitude of undergraduates they taught. These awards will honor the significant contributions of both men to research, education, and the strength of the UCLA academic community.
 
Graduate student recipients of the Daniel E. Atkinson and Charles A West Dissertation Awards (from left) Megan Sjodt with her thesis advisor Prof. Robert Clubb and Andrea Hadjikyriacou with her thesis advisor Prof. Steven Clarke.   
 
 
Undergraduate recipients of the Daniel E. Atkinson & Charles E. West Biochemistry Undergraduate Prize in Metabolic Biochemistry (from left) Hei Tong "Nikki" Lam with her research advisor Prof. and Chair Catherine Clarke and Thao Luong who conducted research in Prof. Carla Koehler's group prior to graduating.
 
Professor Emeritus Daniel E. Atkinson
In more than 90 publications, Atkinson's research pioneered the field of metabolic regulation. His work allowed him to develop the concept of  "energy charge", now a main topic of biochemistry textbooks. He also was responsible for our present understanding of the biological role of the urea cycle in pH regulation. Students in our Chemistry and Biochemistry 153C course are still delighted to hear how his findings, initially challenged by the old guard, made their way into mainstream biochemistry. His classic 1977 monograph published by Academic Press "Cellular Energy Metabolism and its Regulation" presented a global view of the logic of metabolism and is still widely read and acclaimed. In a 2005 review, John Duncan wrote that "... anyone wanting a readable introduction to the classic ideas of metabolic regulation could scarcely find a better place to start".  In a 2013 review, Ralph Osgood remarked that it was a "great book still many years later from a great scientist" with a touch of "delicious heresy".  Atkinson recognized the power of personal computers early on, and in 1987 published "Dynamic Models in Biochemistry: A Workbook of Computer Simulations Using Electronic Spreadsheets" with David Barkley, Steven Clarke, and Dougles Rees.  At UCLA, Atkinson trained over 30 Ph.D. students and over 20 postdoctoral fellows and visiting faculty. With his wife Elsie, Atkinson has retired to Corvallis, Oregon.
 
Professor Emeritus Charles A. West
Recognized internationally for his expertise in the biosynthesis and regulation of plant hormones and secondary metabolites of the isoprenoid family that are important for resistance to disease, West's research provided an understanding of how stress responses in plants allow them to deal with pathogens in their environment. In more than 80 papers published with over 50 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows, West opened new areas of research in how antibiotic phytoalexins are made, especially those that protect plants from fungal invasion. West was more than generous with his time and was one of UCLA's most trusted and beloved administrators. He served as Vice-Chair and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Acting Dean of the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences. He was always sought after to be a member and chair Academic Senate, College, and Department committees, and his wisdom and expertise was often called upon in chairing faculty search committees and award committees. He was directly involved in recruiting many of the UCLA biochemistry faculty including bringing Paul Boyer to UCLA from Minnesota. He stayed active at UCLA after retirement, serving on the Phi Beta Kappa Council, the Program Committee and the Executive Board of the UCLA Emeriti Association, and the Chemistry/Molecular Biology Institute Postdoctoral Awards Selection Committee. West and his wife Carol are currently relocating to the Houston, Texas to be closer to family. 
 
These initial awards were made possible by generous donations from a number of their students and colleagues including Audree Fowler (BS 1956; PhD 1963), Kate Murashige (PhD 1962), Atsuko Fujimoto (PhD 1963), Margaret Holzer (PhD 1964), John Brady (BS 1976; PhD 1983), Eric Bean (BS 1977; PhD 1982), Gloria Turner (Research Staff, 1978-2010), Jane Shen-Miller (Research Chemist, 1979-84), Ed Kamemoto (PhD 1982), Bruce Morimoto (BS 1984; PhD 1988), and Irena Mendez (postdoc, 1986-1990), as well as numerous members of the Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty.
 
Additional donations to strengthen the funds for undergraduate and graduate awards and to provide for the possibility of summer research fellowships for undergraduate biochemistry majors are welcomed. Contributions can be made by check payable to the "UCLA Foundation" with “Atkinson/West - Chair's Discretionary” in the memo line and mailed to Professor Steven Clarke, UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 607 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095. 
 
Questions about the fund may be directed to Steven Clarke, clarke@chem.ucla.edu, 310-825-8754.