MacArthur Fellows Program

Jane Richardson

Biochemist | Class of 1985

Durham, North Carolina
44 at time of award
Published July 1, 1985

About Jane's Work

Jane Richardson studies the three-dimensional structures of proteins and RNA, emphasizing the underlying principles of their architecture, aesthetics, interrelationships, and folding mechanisms.

Along with her husband, David, she used x-ray crystallography to determine the molecular structures of individual proteins.  Comparisons among these protein structures led the Richardsons to identify the “Greek key” and other folding patterns, and to discover that pattern similarities result from folding preferences, not necessarily evolutionary relationships.  She has received recognition for her graphic representations, both computer and hand drawn, of protein structures.  Widely reproduced, these drawings have influenced the way proteins are visualized.  The Richardsons helped pioneer the use of synthetic “designed” proteins to study the basic rules that govern their folding into the complex and unique three-dimensional structures that confer biological function.  Their recent all-atom contact analysis methods can improve the accuracy of three dimensional macromolecular structures.


Richardson is the James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University.  Her papers have appeared in numerous publications, including Biochemistry, the Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Richardson received a B.A. (1962) from Swarthmore College, and an M.A. (1966) and M.A.T. (1966) from Harvard University.

Recent News

Jane Richardson continues to serve as the James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University. Among her recent publications is “Biophysical Highlights from 54 Years of Macromolecular Crystallography,” written with her husband, David Richardson, and appearing in the Annual Review of Biophysics (2013).

Updated July 2015

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