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Computation al chem ist discovers compoun d’s du alITY As a child, Dr. Qadir Timerghazin was torn between two loves: computers and chemistry. He split his time performing experiments and programming code. Then he discovered computational chemistry. “Once I realized I could do chemistry in a computer, I was excited,” Timerghazin says. “I wasn’t particularly interested in the life science research — but more about how molecules are made, the details of their electronic structure.” Timerghazin, assistant professor of computational chemistry, used powerful computers to model various chemical compounds, often for the fun of learning how they were made and how they reacted. It was this modeling exploration that led to an important discovery. “By chance, I ran across this class of compounds — S-nitrosothiols,” he says. “Everyone was excited about their role in the nitric oxide biochemistry that controls many essential physiological processes.”

“ ... by discovering the dual, antagonistic character of these compounds, we could explain many of the existing controversies surrounding it.”

Nitric oxide, first thought to be just a poison, is also essential to human life. The S-nitrosothiols (RSNOs) it forms are still not well understood, but Timerghazin’s discovery may change that. Mirroring his own duality in his love of computers and chemistry, Timerghazin discovered a duality in the RSNOs — he actually describes the compound as having “multiple personalities.” “I realized that, by discovering the dual, antagonistic character of these compounds, we could explain many of the existing controversies surrounding it,” he says. “By changing the environment, we can force the compound to choose one of the two ‘personalities,’ essentially becoming an entirely different molecule.” The importance of this discovery and its implications in the biomedical field earned Timerghazin a prestigious early career award from the National Science Foundation, worth $400,000 toward furthering his research. JESSE LEE

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marquette university discover magazine 2014


Discover Research 2014