Professor David C. Richardson Named Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry Following his Retirement

Professor David C. Richardson has been named Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry following his retirement on 1 February 2023.

A Brief Bibliographic Sketch

Dave joined the Department of Biochemistry at Duke University as an Assistant Professor in 1969.  He rose through the ranks and became a Professor in 1991.  During his 53-year career here at Duke, Dave has contributed significantly to our missions of research, teaching, and service.  He is world renowned for his contributions to our deep understanding of protein and nucleic acids (RNA, in particular) structure and function.  Dave was awarded multiple honors including the Amgen Award for Innovation in Protein Science, the Distinguished Speaker of the American Chemical Society, North Carolina Section, and more recently the Carl Branden Gold Medal Award by the Protein Society.  His expertise and reputation in macromolecular structure are underscored by his educational contributions to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Course on x-ray methods in Structural Biology.  From 1999-2017, Dave has taught many of today’s world’s experts in protein structure whilst they were still at the graduate or postdoctoral level of their careers.  This was an incredible contribution to the field of structural biochemistry.  His teaching at Duke has been recognized by his winning the Gordon Hammes Teaching and Mentoring Award.  The course he taught with Jane Richardson on understanding protein structure was highly popular with graduate and undergraduate students from multiple departments across campus.

Over the years Dave has served on scores of graduate student thesis advisory committees and has mentored directly multiple PhD students in his laboratory.  He had been a leading advocate and a positive voice in the Department and the School of Medicine for all our graduate students, especially those with physical or other human disabilities.

Dave has made multiple outstanding contributions to science, teaching, and service.  He has published 12 papers that have been cited more than 1,000 times and currently has over 66,000 citations.  At the start of his career here at Duke University, Dave solved many of the first structures of biologically important proteins, including superoxide dismutase.  His group was also one of the first to pioneer the field of de novo protein design.  Dave and his group had also started to make outstanding contributions to exceptionally useful molecular graphics software, including Kinemage and KiNG.  Perhaps, the most important computational tool that Dave has created is MolProbity, which is offered on the Richardson-run website and is implemented in other structural software packages and websites throughout the world.  This software offers structural biologist the where with all to validate and improve their structures of proteins, protein-nucleic acid complexes and nucleic acids.  MolProbity is also now being used by those, who employ cryo electron microscopy, to study macromolecular structures.  Additionally, Dave together with Jane and other leading software developers, have created PHENIX, which is a Python-based, software package that allows users to determine macromolecular structures without having to use numerous programs, one at a time, in order to solve a structure.  In total, the paper describing PHENIX has been cited over 23,000 times.  Dave has made extraordinary contributions to the field of biochemistry and more specifically to structural biology.  This work has truly enhanced the scientific standing of the Department of Biochemistry and Duke University School of Medicine.

Dave has been a wonderful colleague and advocate for our students, structural biology, basic biomedical research, and Duke University.  We look forward to seeing him around the Department in the future.

            Written by Dick Brennan, Chair Department of Biochemistry.