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Jacqueline Barton

Jacqueline Barton (1952– )

“At the beginning, it’s detective work--having a puzzle, a problem to solve.”
–Jacqueline Barton

National Medal of Science (NMS) recipient in 2010 “for discovery of a new property of the DNA helix, long-range electron transfer, and for showing that electron transfer depends upon stacking of the base pairs and DNA dynamics.”

“Her experiments reveal a strategy for how DNA repair proteins, locate DNA lesions and demonstrate a biological role for DNA-mediated charge transfer.”

Jacqueline Barton with her husband, Peter Dervan

Jacqueline Barton with her husband, Peter Dervan, who is also a Medal of Science awardee. Credit: Sandy Schaeffer for the National Science Foundation

Jacqueline Barton was born in New York City to a state supreme court justice father and a Belgian Jewish mother who fled to England during World War II and then immigrated to the United States.

Barton took her first chemistry class as an undergraduate at Barnard College and fell in love with the subject, earning her Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University in 1979. Her work on DNA as a professor at Columbia drew attention from notable chemists in the field including her future husband, Peter Dervan, who is, impressively enough, a fellow NMS recipient.

Barton joined the faculty at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in 1989, where she studies the electrical conductivity of DNA and chairs the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

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