Six Decades of Academic Publications Achieved by Professor Frank Stermitz

Posted: March 13th, 2017

As of this year, Colorado State University Department of Chemistry Professor Emeritus Frank Stermitz officially has six decades of academic publications under his belt.

From 1956 to 2017, Stermitz helped to co-author and author 256 peer-reviewed scientific publications. Over the years, 77 undergraduates, 62 graduate students, and 23 postdoctoral associates helped to contribute to his vital research.

His first publication appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and his latest academic, co-authored paper was published this January in Phytochemical Analysis. Over the years, Stermitz has received $3.8 million in research grant support. These grants helped move forward his research in the isolation and structure of new compounds from medicinal, toxic, and ecologically interesting plants.

Plant research

During his research, Stermitz traveled to the Amazon basin and the western Peruvian desert. He was awarded the Fogarty Senior International Fellowship to analyze plants used as medicines by Peruvian natives, specifically “Peruvian curanderos” (local folk healers). During his research in South America, Stermitz identified compounds that make these plants physiologically active.

His research has also led him to collaborate with biologists on addressing the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Through each discovery, Stermitz and his collaborators focused on finding naturally sourced compounds, which would target the resistance cause, not the antibiotics themselves. This theory is promising in the hopes of finding useful accessories to antibiotics to fight resistance.

One breakthrough compound in the fight against antibiotic resistance, 5’-methoxyhydnocarpin, was discovered by Stermitz and Northeastern University Professor Kim Lewis. This chemical compound was isolated from barberry plants, and together with antibiotics, inactivates strains of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, which are mainly responsible for staph infections contracted in hospitals. Similar resistance-inhibiting compounds have been found in several other native plants.

Throughout the past six decades, Stermitz has become a world expert in the systematic investigation of diverse plant flora in the western hemisphere and continues to make headway in his research at the College of Natural Sciences. He has contributed to a vast assortment of natural product studies, and these developments have greatly increased the understanding and usefulness of collaborations among chemists, biologists, and ecologists.