Event brings scientists from around the country to UD and honors late professor

This year’s Delaware Membrane Protein Symposium, held April 30 at the University of Delaware, brought several dozen scientists to UD’s Clayton Hall.

But the day wasn’t just about sharing research findings.

It was dedicated to the legacy of Mahendra Jain, professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry at UD, who died on Sept. 22, 2017 at the age of 78. Dr. Jain was a leading scholar on biological membranes, especially phospholipase A2 enzymes, which play important roles in the function of cell membranes.

A cell’s membrane protects its contents from the environment outside. Proteins in this membrane play an important role in many functions, such as a cell’s ability to communicate with other cells or accept new materials inside its boundaries.

Understanding how these proteins function could be critical for the design of new disease-fighting drugs, but these proteins can be difficult to isolate and study. That’s why it is important for leaders in the field to meet and exchange knowledge on topics such as protein assembly and signaling molecules. The daylong event included a poster session and speakers from the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, Drexel University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Southern California and University of Maryland.

Attendees shared memories of Dr. Jain in a brief session before the keynote speech.

Sharon Rozovsky, a UD associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said, “He was a mentor to many of us, both scientifically and personally. He was an extremely deep thinker, very engaging, and he really touched many lives.”

The symposium ended with a keynote speech from Mary Roberts, a professor emerita of chemistry at Boston College. She also recalled memories of Dr. Jain.

“First of all, Mahendra was a wonderful person to talk with,” she said.

She shared how he proposed describing the movement of certain molecules as “scooting” and “hopping” like frogs. In her talk, she discussed these movements in detail.

The 2018 Delaware Membrane Protein Symposium was organized by Rozovsky, Edward Lyman, an associate professor of physics at UD, and Karen Fleming, a professor of biophysics at Johns Hopkins University.

It was sponsored by the College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The annual symposium began in 2008. In a special twist, all speakers use limericks to summarize their talks. The organizers shared their own limerick invitation for next year’s Delaware Membrane symposium:

The Delaware Membrane Symposium

has bilayers discussed at the podium

join us April next year

and give lipids the cheer

enjoy the membrane pandemonium!