BB.jpg Ben Black

Education and Positions: B.A., Carleton College, 1997; Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2002; Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSD, 2002-2006; Faculty of the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania, Assistant Professor, 2006-2012, Associate Professor, 2012-2018, Professor, 2018-present

Research Interests: Structural and functional studies of the proteins that direct human genome inheritance and protect genome integrity. The structural work spans traditional approaches for determining high-resolution structures as well as solution-based approaches for probing proteins and protein/DNA complexes. A particularly useful approach that we have employed for numerous protein/DNA complexes is hydrogen/deuterium exchange-mass spectrometry (HXMS). For example, HXMS gave us the information with which to help identify the biochemical pathway for epigenetically propagating a special form of chromatin that directs chromosome segregation at cell division. HXMS also revealed for us how the enzyme, PARP-1, is massively activated when it recognizes a DNA break in order to signal the location of the break to the DNA repair machinery. We have used these breakthroughs as a launching pad to some of our current efforts in developing new types of human artificial chromosomes for synthetic biology applications and new types of PARP inhibitors for clinical applications. 

Honors and Awards: 1993-1997, National Merit Scholar; 1997, Sigma Xi; 1997-2002, Dean’s Merit Fellow (University of Virginia, School of Medicine); 2003-2006, Postdoctoral Fellow of the American Cancer Society; 2005, Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences (Burroughs Wellcome Fund); 2009, Rita Allen Foundation Scholar; 2011, Michael S. Brown New Investigator Award of the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania; 2017, Charles E. Kaufman Foundation Initiative Award; 2017, Inaugural Dean’s Innovation Award of the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania; 2017-2019, Member, Editorial Board, Molecular and Cellular Biology

The Protein Society: Member since 2009

Service: 2013-present, Member of six different NIH study sections/panels for intramural and extramural programs, 2016-present, Deputy Chair/Associate Editor, Biochemical Journal

Vision Statement: The Society must continue its excellence in serving the community of scientists involved in the study of proteins. This service includes a dedication to the past, present, and future of the field. The science and scientists who brought the field to where it is today will be celebrated to inspire the current and subsequent generation of protein scientists. The most exciting current breakthroughs will be highlighted so that all Society members can learn about and promote the best we have to offer to the larger scientific community. And the Society can identify the most pressing needs for further innovation in studying and employing proteins, helping to forge connections between its members when collaborations between many of our scientists will be needed to accomplish the most ambitious scientific goals.