More than a vitamin : walks along an essential pathway
Erick Strauss, born on 4 November 1975 and raised in Pretoria, attended the University of Pretoria from 1994 to 1997 where he obtained his BSc (majoring in chemistry and biochemistry) and BSc(Hons) (in chemistry) degrees, both cum laude. He subsequently moved to the USA in 1998 to pursue his graduate studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he worked on the biosynthesis of coenzyme A with Prof Tadhg Begley. He obtained a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Cornell in 2003. He returned to South Africa in the same year to accept an offer from Stellenbosch University to establish his own research group in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science. In 2008 he moved to the Department of Biochemistry (also at Stellenbosch University) as associate professor, and was promoted to full professor in 2013. Since the start of his independent career he has trained 11 MSc students (one as co-supervisor) and nine PhD students (one as co-promotor); he currently leads a group of four PhD students and four postdoctoral fellows. Erick is regarded as a leading authority on the biosynthesis and enzymology of the essential metabolic cofactor coenzyme A, as well as of the design, discovery and development of antimicrobial agents that target this pathway. His publications, which have attracted a total of more than 680 citations (h-index of 12), include articles in prestigious journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA (PNAS), the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) and two articles in Nature Chemical Biology. One of these is a commentary piece chosen as one of ten winning entries (one of only two from outside the United States) submitted by young scientists active in the field in which they expounded their vision of the future ‘Grand Challenges’ in the field of Chemical Biology. Erick currently holds a B3-rating from the NRF. Erick is a recipient of the DuPont Prize for Excellence in Teaching from Cornell University (1999); the Rector’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from Stellenbosch University (2007); the President’s Award from the South African National Research Foundation (2008); the Beckman-Coulter Silver Medal from the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2010); and the Raikes Medal from the South African Chemical Institute (2013). In 2012 he was elected as a founding member of the South African Young Academy of Science. Since 2009 he is also husband to Suzanne and since 2012 father to Matteo – perhaps his biggest (and ongoing!) achievements to date.