Robert A. Scott
Distinguished Research Professor 2003
Robert A. Scott, Chemistry Department Head and Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, uses X-ray absorption spectroscopy and other techniques to study biologically important metals. Iron, selenium, and copper are among the metals living organisms incorporate into vital proteins and enzymes. Dr. Scott investigates how metal ion binding sites function in metallobiomolecules, which include the iron-rich heme that carries oxygen in vertebrate bloodstreams. His findings have increased our understanding, for example, of the natural resistance some bacteria have to cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and other normally toxic metals. His work has shown that the “zinc ribbon,” a structure involved in gene transcription, is conserved from archaea – ancient bacterial life forms at the root of the evolutionary tree – to humans. He also has helped elucidate how metalloproteins transfer electrons over long distances within living systems.
He is among “today’s most desired collaborators when challenging problems arise,” wrote University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Emeritus Helmet Beinert. Stephen Lippard, MIT’s Chemistry Department Chair, states that he is “a major reason why [UGA’s] inorganic, biological, and bioinorganic programs are well-known throughout the worldwide community.” A founder of the Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry, Dr. Scott co-founded the UGA Center for Metalloenzyme Studies, a center of excellence for biological inorganic chemistry research.