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Heather Carlson

Heather A. Carlson is a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Biophysics, and Chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She received her B.S. (1991) from North Central College and her M.S. (1992) and Ph.D. (1997) at Yale University. Her postdoctoral studies at UCSD (1997-2000) focused on computational biology. She has received several honors: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2011), Novartis Chemistry Lectureship (Novartis Pharma AG, 2009), the Corwin Hansch Award (Cheminformatics and QSAR Society, 2008), an NSF CAREER Award (2006), and a Beckman Young Investigator Award (2002). She researches computer modeling of protein–ligand interactions from the basic biophysics of molecular recognition to applied inhibitor design. She is particularly interested in protein flexibility, allosteric control, binding-site druggability, and structural databases.

Professor Carlson’s expertise is in the area of computer simulations, cheminformatics, bioinformatics, and structure-based drug design.  She is a leader in the incorporation of protein flexibility and allosteric control in drug design. She is also well known for her studies of protein-ligand binding and the biophysics of molecular recognition. She frequently collaborates with experimental groups on campus to test her models and methods, giving many of her students combined experimental and computational research experiences.

Carlson is also the director of two large, online resources for studying protein-ligand interactions: Binding MOAD ( and the Community Structure-Activity Resource ( These resources are used by numerous research groups around the world. She also serves the scientific community through NIH review panels and editorial roles for scientific journals.