Remembering Ward Smith

Headshot of Ward Smith. Credit: NIGMS.

I am deeply saddened to tell you that Ward Smith, chief of our Biomedical Technology Branch in the Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biology, passed away at the beginning of July.

Ward first joined NIGMS in 2007 as a program director in our former Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics. Among his major contributions to NIGMS were his management of the Protein Structure Initiative, for which he was honored with an NIH Director’s Award, and of the NIH-supported synchrotron facilities. Ward also oversaw a large portfolio of grants in biomedical technology. The recipient of several NIGMS awards, he was a well-liked colleague who was generous with his time and willingness to help others. 

Prior to coming to NIGMS, Ward had an illustrious career in academia and industry. After receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, where he worked in the lab with Martha Ludwig, he joined David Eisenberg’s lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he conducted structural studies on ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, a photosynthetic enzyme essential to the global carbon cycle. He went on to spend most of his career in industry where he applied his crystallography expertise and served in leadership positions. Major contributions included crystallizing the enzyme that’s the target of glyphosate (an active ingredient in weedkillers) and solving the structure of thymidylate synthase with 5-fluorouracil, one of the first examples of the structure of a drug bound to its target. Other work helped launch the paradigm of structure-based drug design.

We will miss Ward greatly.

9 Replies to “Remembering Ward Smith”

  1. This is very sad news, and I offer condolences to all of Ward’s colleagues at NIH. I had the privilege of working with Ward as a grantee and as a Council member. He was insightful, helpful and a straight shooter. Ward’s passing is a loss to the scientific community.

  2. I greatly appreciated Ward’s positive attitude, humor, and commitment to the many initiatives he was involved in at NIGMS. I had many years of pleasurable interaction with Ward. This is a big loss and makes me very sad.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Dr. Ward Smith. He was a very encouraging and helpful program official at NIGMS. He will be deeply missed. May he Rest in Peace.

  4. This is a big loss to the structural biology community. I will miss Ward’s friendship, insight and sense of humor. In his quiet way, he was a faithful and effective steward of great science.

  5. I am so sorry to hear the sad news. I was fortunate to have Ward for many years as the program officer of my GM grant. He was always very helpful and accommodating. His passing is a big loss to the structural biology community, and we will miss him.

  6. I am extremely sad to hear that Ward Smith has passed away. Ward and I had worked together for a long time at Monsanto and SmithKline Beecham. Ward was one of the greatest structure biologists who I worked with. I am extremely sorry that he passed away.

  7. I am very sorry to hear this news. Martha Ludwig did not train many PhD students – Ward and I were two of them. Although we didn’t overlap in the Ludwig lab, I remember reading his thesis and papers. I viewed him as a scientific sibling from whom I learned a lot. This is a huge loss to the structural biology community.

  8. I am so sorry to read this. I knew Ward in 2018 and he was very kind and helpful. I offer condolences to Ward’s colleagues, friends and importantly, his family. May he Rest in Peace.

  9. I knew Ward as a housemate in Ann Arbor at the university of Michigan. He tolerated his social science housemates, and we enjoyed his sharp kind and terrific sense of humor. Popcorn and tequila sunrises are one memory I have of those days in grad school. We also worked together in the kitchen of a private girls dorm for free meals. It was probably one of the best educated busmen crews ever, with nearly everyone in a phd program. It was a blessing to have known Ward. John Wilson.

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