Grace Stokes Receives Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award
SANTA CLARA, Ca., Dec. 7, 2021—Grace Stokes, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been honored with a 2021 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the most prestigious award for early-career faculty in the field of chemistry at primarily undergraduate institutions in the U.S.
Stokes is among eight scholars selected this year by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation for her excellence in research and dedication to education.
She is also the fourth Dreyfus winner in five years at Santa Clara University, and the sixth overall. Fellow SCU recipients include Mike Carrasco (2004), Eric Tillman (2009), Amelia Fuller (2017), Korin Wheeler (2018), and Paul Abbyad (2019).
The award provides an unrestricted research grant of $75,000 that will support Stokes’ research project, Quantification of Heavy Metal Ion Transport Across Bacterial Membranes. Through a collaboration with biochemist Dr. Janet Yang at the University of San Francisco, Stokes and her student researchers will learn to incorporate proteins that move drugs and metals into and out of a cell into artificial membranes. These techniques paired with new instruments in Stokes’ lab will allow her to study heavy metal ion pollutants and their flow across cell membranes, something she couldn’t previously monitor because of equipment limitations.
“I am excited that this opportunity will enable my students and me to learn from Dr. Yang and extend my work into a new direction,” says Stokes. “This research will inform our understanding of how bacteria interact with metal ions and may also be useful for predicting drug toxicity for this class of proteins called ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters.”
More than half of all drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration target proteins located within the cell's plasma membrane. Stokes’ research will provide a detailed molecular understanding of how ABC transporters change with the presence of metal ions. While her investigation will target smaller transporters, this general class of proteins is crucial to binding and transporting FDA-approved drugs. Her project may translate into a better understanding of how other ABC transporters—including the bigger, more complex ones that bind drugs—work.
“Grace's award is a well-deserved recognition of her outstanding commitment to be an innovative teacher as well as an accomplished scholar at the leading edge of her field,” says Amelia Fuller, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Fuller proudly notes that few chemistry departments nationally include as many Dreyfus awardees. The success of the six SCU faculty award winners, she says, “demonstrates the growing national profile of SCU chemistry and places SCU in the top tier of chemistry departments that do not have a graduate program.”
This is Stokes’ third national recognition in four years. In 2018, she was named a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, and in 2019 she received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation for her project, Quantifying How Peptoids Interact with Lipid Membranes. In this field, says Fuller, “there are no better awards to win than these three.”
About the Foundation
The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation is a leading non-profit organization devoted to the advancement of the chemical sciences. It was established in 1946 by chemist, inventor, and businessman Camille Dreyfus, who directed that the foundation's purpose be "to advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances around the world." For more information, see dreyfus.org.
About the College of Arts and Sciences at Santa Clara University
The College of Arts and Sciences is the heart of Santa Clara University. Our faculty integrate transformative teaching and innovative scholarship to engage students in the processes of learning, discovery and reflection as members of a community of scholars. For more information, visit scu.edu/cas.
About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see www.scu.edu.