Christopher Snow, associate professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has been named the recipient of the Nelson Family Faculty Excellence Award – a prestigious honor designed to help the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering support researchers with potential.
Dean Dave McLean presented the three-year award to Snow in June after soliciting nominations from departments across the college.
“The generosity of Jim and Peggy Nelson provides critical support for one of our mid-career faculty members,” McLean said. “Chris has distinguished himself through groundbreaking research on protein modeling, enzyme engineering and protein crystal engineering that has led to several patent applications. This award will support his passion for helping his students excel, and for his research.”
Recognized for groundbreaking research
Snow received a Best Teacher Award from the CSU Alumni Association this spring. In his first seven years at CSU, his laboratory provided research experiences for 36 undergraduates, 19 senior design team students and eight pre-college students. Snow himself started doing research as a first-year undergraduate at MIT.
“My undergraduate research experience was directly responsible for my subsequent career path,” he said. “I am thrilled to have the chance to use this significant gift to CSU to provide similar opportunities to student researchers at CSU to pursue creative new projects. For example, I am a mentor for a CSU student organization dedicated to competing in BIOMOD, an annual biomolecular design competition. Thanks to this gift, the BIOMOD team will directly benefit from new access to instrumentation and materials.”
Snow’s group engineers biomolecular scaffold crystals that can be used for diverse applications including edible and biodegradable biosensors, microscopic barcodes, and as tools for high-throughput structural biology.
Nelsons support innovative work
“Being senior leaders at our company, we understand the quality of the product, the level of innovation and the organization’s rating in the marketplace are deeply tied to the employees and their retention,” said donor Peggy Nelson. “We believe by doing this type of program we are helping a professor, the students that are exposed over the three years to the professor’s work and are bringing innovative outcomes to the university. Seems like a win, win, win!”
As a chemistry student originally interested in molecular nanotechnology, Snow became a dedicated undergraduate researcher in computational structural biology. He completed a Ph.D. in biophysics in 2006 at Stanford University, where he was a Howard Hughes Fellow studying the biophysics of protein folding.
Before arriving at CSU in 2011, Snow was a Jane Coffin Childs Fellow and a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, Research Fellow in the laboratory of recent Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold. Snow also spent time at the California Institute of Technology developing software for computational protein engineering, designing libraries of cellulase enzymes and studying protein recombination using crystallography.
“He has masterfully blended his formal education in the sciences with the quantitative reasoning and design ethic of an engineer,” said David Dandy, chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
At CSU, the diverse research interests of Snow have led to joint appointments in the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; the Schools of Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Materials Discovery; and the graduate program in Cell and Molecular Biology.