Jane S. Richardson

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Jane S. Richardson
Jane S Richardson BW photo 2002.jpg
Jane Richardson
Born (1941-01-25) January 25, 1941 (age 78)
Alma materSwarthmore College, Harvard University
Known forRibbon diagram, structure validation
Spouse(s)David C. Richardson
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship (1985), Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics (2019)
Scientific career
FieldsStructural biology, Biophysics
InstitutionsDuke University
InfluencesChristian Anfinsen, Frederick Brooks, Frederic Richards
Ribbon schematic of Triosephosphate isomerase, hand-drawn by Jane Richardson
All-atom contact dots for two well-packed Ala residues

Jane Shelby Richardson (born January 25, 1941)[1] is an American biophysicist who developed the Richardson diagram, or ribbon diagram, method of representing the 3D structure of proteins. She is a professor in biochemistry at Duke University.[1]


Richardson was born on January 25, 1941 and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Her father was an electrical engineer and her mother was an English teacher. Her parents encouraged an interest in science and she was a member of local astronomy clubs as early as elementary school.[2] She attended Teaneck High School and in 1958 while there won third place in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, the most prestigious science fair in the United States, with calculations of the satellite Sputnik's orbit from her own observations.[3][4]

She continued her education in science at Swarthmore College, enrolling with the intention of studying mathematics, astronomy and physics. She instead graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree in philosophy with a minor in physics, and pursued graduate work in philosophy at Harvard University, receiving her master's degree in 1966.[1] After finding herself unsuited to teaching high school, she joined her husband David C. Richardson, then completing his PhD work at MIT, in studying the 3-dimensional structure of the Staphylococcal nuclease protein (1SNS)[5] by X-ray crystallography.[6][7] It was one of the first dozen protein structures solved.[8] She later began drawing her eponymous diagrams as a method of interpreting the structures of protein molecules.[9] She has been promoted to many prestigious positions in academia. In July 1985 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for her work in biochemistry.[10] She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991 and to the Institute of Medicine in 2006.[11] She was elected president of the Biophysical Society for the 2012-2013 year,[12] and a fellow of the American Crystallographic Association in 2012.[13] Richardson is currently a James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University.[4] As part of her role in the National Academy of Sciences, Richardson serves on panels that advise the White House and the Pentagon regarding nationally important scientific matters (e.g.,[14]).

The Richardsons jointly head a research group at Duke University.[9]

Richardson is a contributor to Wikipedia, where she is a prominent member of WikiProject Biophysics.[15]

Scientific work[edit]

Richardson's first forays into science were in the field of astronomy. By observing the position of Sputnik – at the time, the only artificial satellite – on two successive nights, she managed to calculate its predicted orbit. She submitted her results to the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, winning third place in 1958.[11]

After earning her master's degree in philosophy, Richardson rejoined the scientific world in the mid 1960s, working as a technician in the same laboratory as her husband.[9] Classes in botany and evolution that she had taken while pursuing her degree shaped her thinking about the work she was doing in the chemistry laboratory.[4] During her crystallographic studies, Jane Richardson had come to realize that a general classification scheme can be developed from the recurring structural motifs of the proteins.[4] In 1977 she published her results in Nature, in a paper entitled "β-sheet topology and the relatedness of proteins".[4][16]

In the meantime, Jane and David Richardson had moved to Duke University in 1970, where they solved the first crystal structure of superoxide dismutase (2SOD).[9][17][18] Richardson had developed the ribbon diagram over the course of her taxonomic research.[19] Her iconic images first appeared in the review journal Advances in Protein Chemistry in 1981 (available in annotated form on-line at Anatax),[11][20] an early hallmark publication in structural bioinformatics. They have since become a standard way of visualizing protein structure. Peter Agre, Nobel laureate and fellow Duke professor, said of the Richardsons' work: "Jane and David’s work allowed us to reveal the form of proteins, and from there it was easier to understand their function."[9]

The Richardsons' more recent work has diversified beyond classification and crystallography. In the 1980s they stretched into the fields of synthetic biochemistry and computational biology as pioneers in the de novo design of proteins.[21] In the 1990s they developed the kinemage system of molecular graphics and David wrote the Mage program to display them on small computers, for the then-new journal Protein Science,[22] and they developed all-atom contact analysis (see image) to measure "goodness of fit" inside proteins and in interactions with surrounding molecules.[4] The Richardson Laboratory currently studies structural motifs in RNA[23] as well as proteins, as part of the RNA Ontology Consortium (ROC),[24] acted as assessors in the CASP8 structure-prediction experiment[25] (CASP),[26] is one of the four developer teams on the PHENIX software system[27] for x-ray crystallography of macromolecules, and hosts the MolProbity web service[28] for validation and accuracy improvement of protein and RNA crystal structures. MolProbity uses the KiNG program (successor to Mage) for showing 3D kinemage graphics on-line. Jane serves on the worldwide Protein Data Bank (wwPDB) X-ray Validation Task Force[29] and NMR Validation Task Force.[30]


  1. ^ a b c "Jane S. Richardson". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on July 12, 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ Jessica Roseberry. "Jane Richardson Interview". Women in Duke Medicine, 9 November 2007.
  3. ^ via United Press. "TWO IN SAME SCHOOL WIN SCIENCE CONTEST", The New York Times, March 4, 1958. Accessed September 13, 2011. "The other scholarship winners are Jane Shelby, 17, of 431 Claremont Avenue, Teaneck, N. J., $5,000; Donald M. Jerina, 18, of River Grove, Ill., $4,000, and Neal L. Nininger of Larkspur, Calif., $3,000."
  4. ^ a b c d e f Bihar, S (August 2004). "Ribbon Diagrams and Protein Taxonomy: A profile of Jane S. Richardson" (pdf). The Biological Physicist. 4 (3): 5.
  5. ^ RCSB.org
  6. ^ Kosara, Robert (November–December 2008). "Structures Smaller than Light". American Scientist. 96 (6): 498. doi:10.1511/2008.75.498.
  7. ^ Arnone AA, Bier CJ, Cotton FA, Day VW, Hazen EE Jr, Richardson DC, Richardson JS, Yonath A (1971). "A High Resolution Structure of an Inhibitor Complex of the Extracellular Nuclease of Staphylococcus aureus: I. Experimental Procedures and Chain Tracing". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 246: 2303–2316.
  8. ^ Richardson JS, Richardson DC (2012). "Studying and Polishing the PDB's Macromolecules". Biopolymers. 99 (3): 170–182. doi:10.1002/bip.22108. PMC 3535681. PMID 23023928.
  9. ^ a b c d e Basgall, Monte (January 13, 2008). "Ribbon Diagrams". Duke Research. Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Retrieved May 31, 2008.
  10. ^ "Fellows List - July 1985". The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 2007. Archived from the original on April 19, 2008. Retrieved May 31, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ a b c Vanderkam, Laura (May 28, 2008). "Finding Order: Jane Richardson". Scientific American. Retrieved June 1, 2008.
  12. ^ "Biophysicist in Profile: Jane S. Richardson". Biophysical Society newsletter. February 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Leduc, J.M.; et al. (2010), Sequence-Based Classification of Select Agents: A Brighter Line, National Academies Press, ISBN 978-0-309-15905-0
  15. ^ Ben Lillie. "What Wikipedia Taught Me About My Grandfather". The Atlantic, 18 November 2014.
  16. ^ Richardson, Jane S. (August 11, 1977). "β-sheet topology and the relatedness of proteins". Nature. 268 (5620): 495–500. doi:10.1038/268495a0. PMID 329147.
  17. ^ RCSB.org
  18. ^ Richardson JS, Thomas KA, Rubin BH, Richardson DC (1975). "Crystal Structure of Bovine Cu,Zn Superoxide Dismutase at 3Å Resolution: Chain Tracing and Metal Ligands". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 72 (4): 1349–1353. doi:10.1073/pnas.72.4.1349. PMC 432531. PMID 1055410.
  19. ^ Richardson JS, Richardson DC (2013). "Doing molecular biophysics: Finding, naming, and picturing signal within complexity". Annual Review of Biophysics. 42: 1–28. doi:10.1146/annurev-biophys-083012-130353. PMC 3695750. PMID 23451888.
  20. ^ Richardson, Jane S. "The Anatomy and Taxonomy of Protein Structure".
  21. ^ Richardson JS, Richardson DC (1989). "The De Novo Design of Protein Structures". Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 14 (7): 304–309. doi:10.1016/0968-0004(89)90070-4. PMID 2672455.
  22. ^ Richardson DC, Richardson JS (January 1992). "The Kinemage: A Tool for Scientific Illustration". Protein Science. 1 (1): 3–9. doi:10.1002/pro.5560010102. PMC 2142077. PMID 1304880.
  23. ^ Richardson JS, Schneider B, Murray LW, Kapral GJ, Immormino RM, Headd JJ, Richardson DC, Ham D, Hershkovits E, Williams LD, Keating KS, Pyle AM, Micallef D, Westbrook J, Berman HM (2008). "RNA Backbone: Consensus All-angle Conformers and Modular String Nomenclature (an RNA Ontology Consortium contribution)". RNA. 14 (3): 465–481. doi:10.1261/rna.657708. PMC 2248255. PMID 18192612.
  24. ^ ROC.bgsu.edu Archived January 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Keedy DA, Williams CJ, Headd JJ, Arendall WB III, Chen VB, Kapral GJ, Gillespie RM, Block JN, Zemla A, Richardson DC, Richardson JS (2009). "The other 90% of the protein: Assessment beyond the Cαs for CASP8 template-based and high-accuracy models". Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics. 77: 29–49. doi:10.1002/prot.22551. PMC 2877634. PMID 19731372.
  26. ^ Predictioncenter.org
  27. ^ Adams PD, Afonine PV, Bunkóczi G, Chen VB, Davis IW, Echols N, Headd JJ, Hung LW, Kapral GJ, Grosse-Kunstleve RW, McCoy AJ, Moriarty NW, Oeffner R, Read RJ, Richardson DC, Richardson JS, Terwilliger TC, Zwart PH (2010). "PHENIX: a comprehensive Python-based system for macromolecular structure solution". Acta Crystallographica D. 66 (Pt 1): 12–21. doi:10.1107/S0907444909052925. PMC 2815670. PMID 20124702.
  28. ^ Chen VB, Arendall WB III, Headd JJ, Keedy DA, Immormino RM, Kapral GJ, Murray LW, Richardson JS, Richardson DC (2010). "MolProbity: all-atom structure validation for macromolecular crystallography". Acta Crystallographica D. 66 (Pt 1): 213–221. doi:10.1107/S0907444909042073. PMC 2803126. PMID 20057044.
  29. ^ Read RJ, Adams PD, Arendall WB III, Brunger AT, Emsley P, Joosten RP, Kleywegt GJ, Krissinel EB, Lütteke T, Otwinowski Z, Perrakis A, Richardson JS, Sheffler WH, Smith JL, Tickle IJ, Vriend G, Zwart PH (2011). "A New Generation of Crystallographic Validation Tools for the Protein Data Bank". Structure. 19 (10): 1395–1412. doi:10.1016/j.str.2011.08.006. PMC 3195755. PMID 22000512.
  30. ^ Montelione GT, Nilges M, Bax A, Guntert P, Herrmann T, Richardson JS, Schwieters C, Vranken WF, Vuister GW, Wishart DS, Berman HM, Kleywegt GJ, Markley JL (2013). "Recommendations of the NMR Structure Validation Task Force". Structure. 21 (9): 1563–1570. doi:10.1016/j.str.2013.07.021. PMC 3884077. PMID 24010715.

Further reading[edit]

  • Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. Shearer. Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997. ISBN 9780313293030

External links[edit]