Charles Carter

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Charlie CarterCharlie Carter is Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Carter received a B.A. degree in Molecular Biophysics in 1967 from Yale University. He attended graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, where he received an MS in Chemistry in 1968 and a PhD in Biology in 1972. He did postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Sir Aaron Klug at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and has had Fogarty (19860) and Fulbright (2010) Fellowships for sabbaticals in Paris.

As President of the American Crystallographic Association in 2002, he spearheaded efforts to involve Latin and South American crystallographers into the activities of the ACA. He and his wife, Valerie were privileged to be invited to a crystallography workshop in Havana. As Past President of the ACA in 2003, he engaged a choreographer to make a dance for his valedictory presentation to the ACA banquet. The dance is a suite of three movements that literally interpret the molecular motions of different biological motors. A reprise was videotaped and can be seen at

Carter’s research focuses on implications of structural biology for mechanistic enzymology and the origin of life. His Carter’s work has identified several convergent threads linking these two apparently unrelated topics, links that must exist if evolution of the former proceeds by natural selection.

Carter served two terms as Associate Editor of Acta Crystallographica A: Foundations in Crystallography. He is especially proud of work published with Gérard Bricogne on the active use of probabilistic Direct Methods to determine accurate phases for the most important reflections preventing a solution of the crystal structure of tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase, part of the molecular dictionary for translating the genetic code. More recently, he has studied ancestral forms of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, which he calls “Urzymes”. Since his initial appointment to the AIP Governing Board in 2004, he has been staunchly loyal to the ideals of the Institute and greatly enjoyed mixing with physicists. He has long supported AIP efforts to promote the scientific method, especially in the contexts of creation science and global climate change.

He is married to Valerie Knox, who graduated from Vassar College in 1967. They enjoy winter sports at their second home in the Vermont Northeast Kingdom, and visiting Paris