Starting in 1985 when she was the first woman to receive the Alan T. Waterman Award, Dr. Jacqueline Barton has been continually honored for her ground breaking work. Receiving over a dozen prestigious medals and awards including seven where she was the first female recipient, Barton was awarded the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal and the highest award given by the American Chemical Society, the Priestley Medal both in 2015.
Her work focuses on the study of the chemical and physical processes of DNA showing that instead of DNA just being a library of information for the cell it is also responsible for the mediation of electrical charge over long distances.
Her research has also shown that this transfer of charge is very sensitive to the structure along the DNA double-helix molecule and any disruptions have far reaching impacts on biological systems. Applying these findings to the development of DNA-based electrochemical sensors she has explored the context of long range signaling within a cell and is looking at the role DNA charge transport chemistry has in DNA repair. As she explained in an interview: think of the repair proteins of DNA like telephone repairmen – if they can talk to each other across the wire there are no problems and they know the section is fine and will move onto other sections that might need to be fixed.
By understanding this repair mechanism better it is hoped that we might unlock answers to aging or diseases like cancer. She has carried out the majority of her research as a professor at the California Institute of Technology whose faculty she joined in 1989. As the head of the Barton group she has trained more than 100 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers at CalTech and has stated that these students, not all the paper she has written, are what has given her the most pride in her work. And she encourages people working in chemistry to share their work and their passion with non-scientists to help people see how important chemistry is to life.
Suggested By Madeleine Jacobs
Written by Angela Goad