INTERVIEW Issue 004
Highlighting the Legacy of Ernest Everett Just
Interview with Dr. W. Malcolm Byrnes
Transcribed by Kyle R. Burton
Dr. W. Malcolm Byrnes is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the College of Medicine.
W. Malcolm Byrnes, Ph.D., with Gwendolyn S. Bethea, Ph.D.
On November 19, 2013, Gwen Bethea, Ph.D., editor of the Howard University Graduate School Research Magazine (hugsresearch.org), interviewed Dr. Malcolm Byrnes, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the College of Medicine, about pioneering early twentieth-century scientist Ernest Everett Just. Byrnes has dedicated part of the past ten years to ensuring that Just receives the recognition he deserves for his groundbreaking research in cell and developmental biology. The interview represents part II of a series of articles and programs emanating from Howard’s campus that will begin a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the First NAACP Spingarn Medal to Just, which occurred in February 1915. (Part I involved the publication of the article “The Genius of Ernest Everett Just” in issue 002 of this magazine.) Among the activities to be sponsored by the Graduate School will be the presentation of the first Dr. Ernest Everett Just STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Award to a person who exemplifies Dr. Just’s passion for science, especially in the areas of medicine and medical research, by the E. E. Just Foundation, Inc. The foundation is a local group focused on promoting STEM education among minority youth. For more information about these activities, please contact Dr. Kamla Deonauth of the Graduate School at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, I’m Gwen Bethea, editor of the Graduate School’s online research magazine. Today, I’m here with Professor Malcolm Byrnes, who is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the College of Medicine. He will be talking to us today about Ernest Everett Just, who was a faculty member at Howard University from 1907 to 1941.
Dr. Bethea: Dr. Byrnes, would you like to tell us a little about yourself and then proceed with your fascinating findings on Dr. Just?
Dr. Byrnes: Absolutely, and thank you very much Dr. Bethea for giving me this opportunity to highlight the legacy of Ernest Everett Just, who truly was a brilliant and pioneering biologist. I’m a biochemist by training. I got my bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Xavier University in New Orleans and then got a PhD in biochemistry from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. I did postdoctoral research at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I worked for a time at the National Institute of Standards in Technology, NIST, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and then came here, to Howard, in the fall of 2001.
My research is primarily concerned with enzymology, the study of enzymes and how they work, and I focus, in particular, on enzymes from Bacteria and Archaea. I look at the relationship between the enzymes’ structure and their function and use classical tools of biochemistry. But this scholarly work that I’m doing on E. E. Just really is not at all related to my own scientific research.