Northwestern chemistry professor receives National Science Foundation grant

Dr. David Arnett, professor of chemistry at Northwestern College, has received a $121,825 grant from the Chemistry of Life Processes program of the National Science Foundation. 

Arnett will work with Dr. Carey Johnson of the University of Kansas and Dr. Brian Smith of the Medical College of Wisconsin on “Mapping and Tracking Conformational Control of Nitric Oxide Synthase Activation.” Collectively, the three institutions were awarded $750,000 for this project.

The research by Arnett, Johnson and Smith, which will be assisted by their peers and students, will investigate shapes, or conformations, and shape changes of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) enzymes. The grant money will allow Arnett to continue his research of the enzymes, which he started at the University of Kansas during his sabbatical from Northwestern in 2009–10.

“The operating hypothesis is that NOS enzymes work through several ‘moving parts’ that work together to push electrons from the fuel molecules to the active site where nitric oxide (NO) is produced,” says Arnett. “These moving parts cause conformational changes of the enzyme. Our research combines two types of techniques to better understand these conformational changes.” 

Northwestern students will engage in the research both in their chemistry classes and through independent study opportunities. Additionally, Northwestern students will be able to participate in research by attending summer programs at either the University of Kansas or the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Arnett’s award is designated for Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) by the National Science Foundation. The funding supports faculty at predominantly undergraduate institutions in their research that engages them in their professional field, builds capacity for research at their home institution, and supports the integration of research and undergraduate education.