William A. Eaton

National Institutes of Health

Election Year: 2006
Primary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Secondary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member


William Allen Eaton was born and educated in Philadelphia, earning a BA degree in Chemistry in 1959, an MD degree in 1964, and a PhD degree in Molecular Biology in 1967, all at the University of Pennsylvania. During 1959-60 he studied biophysics at the Free University of Berlin, as the first “Willy Brandt Exchange Student.” Eaton’s PhD thesis research on single crystal optical spectroscopy of heme proteins was carried out under the supervision of Robin M. Hochstrasser. He then moved to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, to fulfill his military service obligation as a Medical Officer in the US Public Health Service. Eaton's entire subsequent career has been spent carrying out research in biophysical chemistry at NIH, apart from a semester as a Visiting Professor at Harvard University, Cambridge. Since 1986 he has served as Chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Physics, the principal laboratory at NIH carrying out research in the biophysical sciences.

Research Interests

Current research interests include molecular pathophysiology and therapy for sickle cell disease, theoretical models for allostery in multi-subunit proteins, and kinetics, dynamics, and mechanisms of protein folding using single molecule spectroscopy, statistical mechanical models, and computer simulations;. A highly sensitive cellular assay, based on laser-photodissociation of carboxyhemoglobin to induce polymerization, has been developed to screen compounds for their ability to treat sickle cell disease by delaying sickling to allow more cells to escape the microcirculation before fibers form.

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