Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Chair, Physics and Astronomy
1980 B.S. Electrical Engineering, Universidade de Sao Paulo
1981 B.S. Physics, Universidade de Sao Paulo
1982 M.S. Applied Physics, Universidade de Sao Paulo
1987 Ph.D. Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
JOSÉ ONUCHIC has led the biological physics community as it attempts to devise an integrated picture of a variety of model biochemical and biological systems. His research has expanded across the scales of molecular-level interactions to cellular systems to organized multi-cellular structures. At Rice he will move this view towards medical applications focusing on cancer. In protein folding, he has introduced the concept of protein folding funnels as a mechanism for the folding of proteins. Convergent kinetic pathways, or folding funnels, guide folding to a unique, stable, native conformation. Energy landscape theory and the funnel concept provide the theoretical framework needed to pose and to address the questions of protein folding and function mechanisms. He also works on theory of chemical reactions in condensed matter with emphasis on biological electron transfer. He is also interested in stochastic effects in gene networks with connections to bacteria decision-making and cancer.
JOSÉ ONUCHIC is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Biosciences at Rice University and is the co-Director of the NSF-sponsored Center for Theoretical Biological Physics. He did his undergraduate work at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and received his PhD from Caltech at 1987 under the supervision of John J. Hopfield. His thesis work was on new aspects of the theory of electron transfer reactions in biology. He then spent six month at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara and after that went back to Brazil at the University of São Paulo as an Assistant Professor for two and half years. During this period he continued his work on electron transfer theory as well as on the theory of chemical reactions in condensed matter and molecular electronics. He came to the University of California at San Diego in 1990. In 1989 he was awarded the International Centre for Theoretical Physics Prize in honor of Werner Heisenberg in Trieste, Italy, in 1992 he received the Beckman Young Investigator Award, and he is a fellow of the American Physical Society. In 2006 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and in 2009 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. In 2011 he was awarded the Einstein Professorship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and in 2012 he has been elected Fellow of the Biophysical Society. In 2014 he received the Diaspora Prize from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industrial Development and Foreign Trade from Brazil.
2018 - Max Delbruck Prize in Biological Physics
2017 - Fellow of the American Association for the Development of Science