Joan Valentine, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

Joan Valentine was born in Auburn California in 1945 but grew up in Cambridge MA. She received an undergraduate degree from Smith College and, in 1971, was the first woman to receive a Ph. D. in Chemistry from Princeton University. She came to UCLA in 1980 as Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and has been here ever since. She has received numerous awards and honors, among them, election to the National Academy of Sciences, and is a much sought after and internationally renowned speaker, having been invited to speak in Argentina, China, Greece, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and Italy, as well as throughout the United States. She served from 1995 to 2013 as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Accounts of Chemical Research.

Professor Valentine’s biochemical work has focused on copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1), an important and ubiquitous antioxidant enzyme, from biophysical and biological points of view. Her research has explored the connection of this enzyme with the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and how mutations in SOD1 cause the disease. Working with purified proteins, the laboratory studies the processes by which aggregates and fibrils are formed and explores the structure of the resulting materials. Identifying which are the toxic species is of great interest and work is also directed at studying these species in neuronal cell-culture models of toxicity. Most recently, the work in the Valentine laboratory showed that molecular tweezer modulate SOD1 aggregation and we believe they have great promise as a research tool to study early steps in the fibrillation reaction, and potentially as a lead for drug development.