Janet L. Smith
A native of Pennsylvania, Smith studied chemistry as a National Merit Scholar at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (BS, 1973). Finding biochemistry to be the most stimulating area of chemistry, she continued her study in that field at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D., 1978) where she was convinced of the importance of structure in biology by her research advisor M. Sundaralingam.
After her thesis research on crystal structures of protein synthesis inhibitors, Smith pursued a growing interest in protein structure by joining Wayne Hendrickson at the Naval Research Laboratory as a National Research Council Research Fellow. Following this postdoctoral work, she held positions as associate research scientist in Hendrickson lab and as associate research scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, both at Columbia University. Smith established a research program in structural biology at Purdue in 1987. She has been a visiting scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, and a lecturer at numerous international schools on structural biology and synchrotron radiation.
Smith's research focuses on understanding biological processes through knowledge of the structures of key protein molecules. She has made major contributions to the understanding of catalysis and regulation in glutamine amidotransferases and phosphoribosyltransferases by solving and interpreting crystal structures of several enzymes of each type. She has solved crystal structures of photosynthetic proteins, leading to a new understanding of their function. She has also contributed to the development of methods for rapid determination of protein crystal structures, particularly using synchrotron X-ray sources.
Smith is co-author or author of more than 70 publications, and has served on the editorial boards of four journals: Current Opinion in Structural Biology, Macromolecular Structures, Protein Science, and Structure. She is a recipient of an National Institutes of Health (NIH) MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award for her work on understanding the function and structure of complex enzymes.
Smith holds membership in several scientific societies and has served on numerous on grant review panels. From 1996 to 1998, she chaired the Biophysical Chemistry Study Section A at NIH. She is a founder and the current chairperson of the Structural Biology Synchrotron Users Organization. She also served on the Department of Energy's Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee and is a frequent advisor to synchrotron radiation facilities and synchrotron structural biology labs both in the U.S. and abroad. Smith is director of the NIH Collaborative Access Team for National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the NIH National Cancer Institute at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory. She was Professor of Biological Sciences at Purdue University from 1987 through 2004.