The Randolph G. Wei UROP Award was given this year to Rodney Chan of Vancouver, BC, a junior in biology for outstanding work at the interface of the life sciences and engineering.
Mr. Chan was nominated by Professors Alexander Rich and John Buchanan and research scientist Shuguang Zhang of the Department of Biology. Mr. Chan worked with Professor Rich on the three-dimensional structure of a translational regulator, the T4 reg A protein, which acts by binding to messenger RNA, thereby regulating its translation.
According to Professor Rich, "The solution of the crystal structure requires that an initial map is made using multiple isomorphous replacement technique. This map shows the outlines of the molecule. However, the next great challenge is to fit the molecule itself into that map using the known amino acid sequence. This is a difficult job. The asymmetric unit of the molecule has two molecules, each containing 122 amino acids. Rodney's job was to interpret the map, find the beginning and end of the chains, and show that the interpretation led to the correct structure. He came up with a unique and correct solution."
Mr. Chan is the second author of a paper describing this work that will appear in Science magazine shortly.
The Wei Award is given in memory of Randolph G. Wei, a member of the MIT Class of 1987.
Undergraduate fellowships awarded
Eloranta Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships are given to students (including seniors) to "encourage creativity and stimulate involvement in a broader range of intellectual activity than is normally possible during the term."
Four fellowships are normally awarded, but this year the Committee made the unusual decision to award five, as follows:
Danielle G. Lemay, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science from Hudson, FL, for her poetry project, "To Go To Acirema."
Ximena Leroux of Mexico City, a junior in humanities with a history major, for her intended study of "The Chiapas Rebellion: The Role of Peasant Organizations in Social Revolution."
Solomon R.C. Douglas of Toronto, a junior in humanities with a music major, for his project entitled "String Quartet."
Amy Towfighi, a freshman who plans to major in brain and cognitive sciences from Watertown, MA, for a study of "The Role of Women in Improving Children's Health in Shantytowns in Nairobi."
Alan E. Pierson, a junior in physics and music from Chicago, for "The Development and Evolution of Syncretic Jewish Prayer Music."
Proposals may be for work in any area: science, engineering, the humanities, arts or the social sciences. Also unusual this year, according to the committee, was the absence of winning projects in either engineering or science.
Eloranta Fellows receive a project grant and stipend. They present the results of their work at a luncheon the following year when the new fellows are named.
The Fellowships are administered by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. First awarded in the summer of 1969, the program was funded by a gift from the late Edwin H. Land, founder and president of Polaroid Corp. Dr. Land established the award in memory of Peter J. Eloranta, a member of the MIT Class of 1968.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 7, 1995.