Cutting-edge science at UH Manoa gets worldwide attention

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Apr 21, 2004

Researchers around the world are learning this week about the latest discoveries from the UH Manoa team guided by microbiologist Maqsudul Alam.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on Monday that Alam‘s discovery of two oxygen-laden proteins in microbes that are the earliest known ancestors to hemoglobin will be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We are all quite excited about this recognition for our team," Alam said. "NSF has supported our work with a half-million dollar grant over four years. We have been able to put together a wonderful working relationship with the Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) that allows us to greatly accelerate our research. And we are especially pleased that the work has involved science students from Hawaiʻi from the very beginning."

In addition to bringing scientists closer to identifying the earliest life forms to use oxygen, Alam says that the research may also aid in the search for blood substitutes as more is learned about how the subject proteins, called protoglobins, evolved to carry and release oxygen.

UH Manoa Chancellor Peter Englert cites Alam‘s work as a prime example of the growing reputation of Manoa as the research campus for the UH system. "From the beginning of my time here, I have stressed that we need to maximize our research expertise and capabilities. Our strategic plan notes that ʻthe essence of Manoa is research,‘ and Professor Alam‘s continuing excellent work is an outstanding example of why that is so."

The paper announcing the research is to be posted on the main page of NSF‘s Web site. The discovery has already received attention in prominent Europe and Asia-based journals and Web distribution services.

Lead author for the published paper is Tracey Freitas, a Pearl City High School graduate, who began working with Alam‘s team as an undergraduate seven years ago. Freitas will receive his master‘s degree this summer. Other members of the team are Shaobin Hou and Jennifer Saito; James Newhouse is the computational chemist and liaison at the MHPCC. The research has also involved scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

The following links provide information about the nature of the research Dr. Alam has conducted and an explanation of its significance. A link is also provided to an animated simulation of the molecular dynamics of a protoglobin model developed at the Maui High Performance Computing Center.

The NSF news release — issued earlier this week — may be found at:

Images/B-roll: An animation simulating the molecular dynamics of an archaeal protoglobin model is available here:
A still image from this animation is also available at the NSF news release site (above).

Dr. Alam‘s Lab Web site:

For more information, visit: