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Stephen Howell, Plant Sciences Institute, (515) 294-5267
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- Robert Jernigan has been named director of the Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics at Iowa State University, effective March 1, 2002.

Jernigan is chief of the Section on Molecular Structure and deputy chief of the Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

The Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics is one of nine research centers in the Plant Sciences Institute.

"Robert Jernigan is an eminent scientist and we were able to attract him because the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State has one of the finest bioinformatics and biological statistics program in the country," said Stephen Howell, institute director. "He is the top person to lead this very exciting area."

Modern biological research in genomics and related areas generates massive amounts of information, and bioinformatics is the science of analyzing that information and changing it into knowledge.

Jernigan earned his doctorate in chemistry at Stanford University, studying under Nobel Laureate P.J. Flory. He joined NIH in 1970 as a senior staff fellow and became a theoretical physical chemist in the Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology in 1975. He was named deputy chief of the laboratory in 1980 and section chief in 1992.

Jernigan is the author of 108 research publications and has given invited presentations throughout the United States and in five countries. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the editorial advisory board of the journal, Biochemistry.

In his research, Jernigan conducts theoretical studies on the structure and interactions of proteins, nucleic acids and small molecules. Applications are made to develop molecular models and to select new drugs.

In addition to his appointment as director of the Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics, Jernigan will be professor of biochemistry in the department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology.

The Baker Center develops highly advanced computational and statistical methods for acquiring and analyzing biological and genomics data. The center director oversees continued expansion of Iowa State's research programs in bioinformatics, computational biology and biological statistics.

The first director of the Baker Center was mathematics professor Jim Cornette, who retired in 2000. Hal Stern, professor of statistics, has served as interim director since August 2000.


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