North Central College welcomes a distinguished visiting scholar and alumna—Heather Carlson ’91—May 15 as keynote speaker for the College’s 15th annual Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research. The Rall Symposium is a forum for North Central College undergraduate students to present their independent scholarly research projects, spanning all academic areas, and is part of a daylong Honors Day event that recognizes top student scholars and their academic achievements.
Carlson is a distinguished professor and pharmaceutical researcher at the University of Michigan. Free and open to the public, Carlson’s talk will begin at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 15, in the College’s Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave. The title of her keynote is “Mapping Protein Surfaces in Structure-Based Drug Design.”
Student-researchers will present their posters at 9:30 a.m. in the lobby of Wentz Concert Hall. Oral presentations are scheduled between 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at various locations in Goldspohn Hall and the Harold and Eva White Activities Center. The College’s annual Honors Convocation will begin at 1:30 p.m., also in Wentz Concert Hall.
Carlson was invited to give this year’s keynote address because of her high achievements, her work in pharmaceutical research and in honor of North Central’s Sesquicentennial celebration. At the University of Michigan, Carlson is professor of medicinal chemistry at the College of Pharmacy and professor of chemistry in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. She is also principal investigator at the Heather A. Carlson Laboratory at the university. Her laboratory specializes in method development for drug companies, which includes creating technologies and databases for use in drug design. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, her lab is also researching a method that incorporates protein flexibility in drug design. She joined the faculty of the university in 2000 with the appointment of the John Gideon Searle Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry endowed chair at the College of Pharmacy.
Carlson has received numerous honors for her research and teaching; most recently she was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her contributions to computational chemistry. In 2006, she earned a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the NSF’s highest honor for early career research and outreach. She later earned the 2008 Corwin Hansch Award for her work with QSAR modeling and was named a Novartis Lecturer for 2009-2010. She earned the College of Pharmacy’s Student Appreciation Award and Teaching Excellence Award in 2005 and 2007, respectively, at Michigan.
At North Central College, she carried a triple major in mathematics, physics and chemistry and was recognized as the Outstanding Major in Chemistry in her graduating class. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University and to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California in San Diego.