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ACA2014 Awards

Patterson Award to John Helliwell

[John Helliwell] John Helliwell.

John R. Helliwell has been selected to receive the 2014 ACA Patterson Award for his pioneering contributions to the development of the instrumentation, methods and applications of synchrotron radiation in macromolecular crystallography. Professor of Structural Chemistry at the U. of Manchester, UK, John received his undergraduate degree in physics from York U. (with Michael Woolfson and Peter Main) and a PhD in protein crystallography at Oxford (with Margaret Adams). He was mentored by Charlie Bugg and Guy Dodson in the laboratories of Dorothy Hodgkin and David Phillips.

John was involved in the first experiments that used synchrotron radiation for macromolecular structural studies and he has dedicated his career to exploring new applications of synchrotron radiation and has worked tirelessly to improve synchrotron and neutron facilities worldwide. He contributed to solving the phase problem by, among other things, introducing longer wavelength radiation to expand anomalous scattering applications for phasing to a wider range of scatterers. He is also recognized for having pushed forward the development of Laue methods for time-resolved studies and other applications, both in X-ray and neutron crystallography.

He led the design and realization of the first synchrotron beamline (SRS, Daresbury) dedicated to protein crystallography (1981) and of the first synchrotron radiation wiggler instrument (1984). Other notable initiatives at SRS were in longer wavelength anomalous dispersion (Howard Einspahr), weakly scattering crystals (Steve Ealick), microcrystal diffraction (Britt Hedman and Keith Hodgson), virus crystal diffraction (Michael Rossman) and Laue diffraction (Keith Moffat). In the late 80s and into the 90s he led the European working group for macromolecular crystallography for the ESRF Foundation Phase report and became Vice Chair and then Chair of the ESRF Science Advisory Committee.

In 1995 he first demonstrated sharpened crystal mosaicity in microgravity-grown protein crystals. In 2001-2002 he determined the first de novo structure of apocrustacyanin A1, solved with softer X-rays. In 2005 he initiated ab initio structure determination by MAD phasing of powder diffraction data and discussed the potential for extending the method to structures of large molecules containing anomalous scatterers.

He is the author of a classic book on protein crystallography, Macromolecular Crystallography with Synchrotron Radiation (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992) and is a founding editor of the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation. He was president of the ECA (2006–2009) and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IUCr journals (1996–2005).

He has traveled widely to promote and support crystallography internationally, and has fostered several synchrotron and neutron projects in the US and served on many advisory and board panels to review synchrotron projects at the APS. His special relationship with American crystallography and the crucial contributions he has made to improve synchrotron radiation applications from the very dawn of the synchrotron era were key for his selection as the 2014 Patterson award recipient. John will receive the award at the 2014 ACA meeting at Albuquerque, NM.

Chiara Pastore
Taken from ACA RefleXions, Summer 2013