Samuel H. Gellman

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2014)


Sam Gellman is the Ralph F. Hirschmann Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. His laboratory's contributions include insights on the origin of protein folding preferences and pioneering studies of synthetic, biopolymer-inspired "foldamers." Gellman was born in Evanston and grew up near Philadelphia. He earned his AB from Harvard University in 1981 and his PhD from Columbia University, under Ronald Breslow, in 1986. After a post-doctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, with Peter Dervan, Gellman joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1987.

Research Interests

Major efforts in Sam Gellman's program stem from a fascination with the structure and function of proteins. His group has helped to establish design rules for creation of small, autonomously folding beta-sheets; these systems were then used to address fundamental questions such as whether stability is influenced by beta-sheet size. Another research trajectory has focused on developing fully synthetic analogues of proteins based on the use of beta- or gamma-amino acids as building blocks, rather than or in addition to the natural alpha-amino acids. Gellman's group has helped to elucidate the folding "rules" for these protein-mimetic systems and to develop applications for these new types of molecules. A third program has explored whether the functions of natural polypeptides always depend upon a specific subunit sequence. This work has shown that the activity profiles of some evolved polypeptides, such as antimicrobial host-defense peptides, can be mimicked by sequence-random copolymers.

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