Pappu named Murty Professor of Engineering

Pappu (center) at his installation March 2 with Dean Ralph S. Quatrano (left) and Provost Holden Thorp.

Rohit V. Pappu, PhD, has been named the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. He was installed March 2.

Pappu is professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Center for Biological Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and a member of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders and of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences’ Computational and Molecular Biophysics Program, both at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

His research focuses on the form, functions and self-associations of intrinsically disordered proteins. He and his lab members have developed and used novel combinations of polymer physics theories, molecular simulations and biophysical experiments to provide definitive descriptors that relate information contained in these intrinsically disordered proteins sequences to their conformational characteristics and aggregation mechanisms.

“We are so fortunate to have someone with Rohit’s exceptional expertise in this critically important basic research area in our School of Engineering & Applied Science,” said Ralph S. Quatrano, PhD, dean and the Spencer T. Olin Professor. “His unique ability to see how his research relates to other investigators in engineering and medicine and his close interactions with faculty at the School of Medicine make him an extremely invaluable member of our faculty and very deserving of this professorship.”

Pappu’s lab was the first to show that archetypal polar intrinsically disordered proteins, such as polyglutamine, form collapsed structures in aqueous solutions. His group also has made important contributions toward understanding the mechanisms of polyglutamine aggregation, which lies beneath the process of neurodegeneration in Huntington’s and eight other neurodegenerative diseases. Recent efforts have focused on the effects of naturally occurring flanking sequences in huntingtin, or the Huntington’s disease gene. Through a unique combination of theory, simulation and experiment, Pappu is working to uncover hidden intricacies in the phase behavior of proteins with polyglutamine expansions.

Prior to joining Washington University in 2001, Pappu completed postdoctoral research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and at Washington University School of Medicine. He earned a doctorate in biological physics and a master’s degree in solid state physics and biological physics, all from Tufts University, and bachelor’s degrees in physics, mathematics and electronics from St. Joseph’s College at Bangalore University in Bangalore, India.

In 2013, Pappu was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has published more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has served as an associate faculty member of Faculty of 1000 (F1000); chair and vice-chair of the Gordon Research Conference on intrinsically disordered proteins; and as chair of the Biophysical Society’s Intrinsically Disordered Proteins subgroup. He received the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award from the March of Dimes Foundation in 2004, the John F. Burlingame graduate physics fellowship at Tufts; and was a National Merit Scholar in India.

About Edwin H. Murty

Murty was a radio engineer and manufacturer’s representative for several electronics engineering firms who attended classes at Washington University in the 1940s.

After graduating from high school, Murty attended the Capital Radio Engineering Institute in Washington, D.C., then worked in various electronic engineering capacities with companies, such as the Bendix Radio and Continental Radio and Television Corp. in Chicago; the Federal Communications Commission in Portland, Ore., and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.

The Missouri native later worked as a manager with the Kay Sales Co. and as a representative for Continental Carbon Inc. and Lavoie Labs until his retirement in the early 1970s. After he retired, he focused on his investments.

In 1999, Murty established the professorship in appreciation of his relationship with the departments of Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, he wrote in a letter to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. In the late 1980s, he endowed the Edwin H. and Margaret K. Murty Scholarship in the School of Engineering & Applied Science. He died in 2002.

About the School of Engineering & Applied Science

The School of Engineering & Applied Science focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security.

With 91 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, more than 900 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.​​