Sykes, Dr. Brian

2003 Winner: Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science

Dr. Brian Sykes has had a profound influence in the development of protein research and structural biology in Canada. Dr. Sykes is an international leader in the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study the structure and interactions of macromolecules such as proteins in biochemical systems. He is best known for his seminal work on the calcium-binding proteins of muscle. Recently he published a series of papers that have led to new insights into how antifreeze proteins perform their protective function.
Dr. Sykes has contributed significantly to the advancement of science at the local, national and international levels. He is a founding member and the current director of the Medical Research Council (MRC)/Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Group in Protein Structure and Function, the internationally renowned team of protein researchers at the University of Alberta. Established in 1975, this was the first MRC group in Canada. Many of the researchers trained in this group are now at the forefront of structural biology in Canada.
Dr. Sykes is also a founding member and the current deputy scientific leader of the Protein Engineering Network of Centres of Excellence (PENCE), which was built on the strengths and reputation of the MRC/CIHR group. Structural biologists in Canada have Dr. Sykes to thank for spearheading the establishment of the National High Field NMR Centre (NANUC) at the University of Alberta. The centre houses the highest field NMR spectrometer in Canada and provides structural biologists with access to the most advanced NMR techniques in their field. In 1998, Dr. Sykes became chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Alberta and has revitalized the department by recruiting key people in several areas. He has also made a significant contribution to nurturing the next generation of NMR structural biologists by mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom now occupy key academic and industrial positions in Canada and elsewhere.
Dr. Sykes has earned international recognition and numerous awards for his research leadership and creativity. In 1997, he was appointed “University Professor of Biochemistry,” the highest honour the university can bestow on a member of its academic staff. In 2000, he became one of the few Albertans to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of London. He was subsequently awarded a Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology in recognition of his work.