Lewis Kay is renowned for breaking new ground in the study of protein structures and dynamics using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. His work has facilitated the routine study of megadalton-sized protein complexes, where 1 dalton is equivalent to a twelfth of the mass of a carbon atom — about 1.7 x 10–27 grams. Lewis’s results are providing fascinating insights into how proteins carry out biological functions.
NMR spectroscopy makes use of the way atomic nuclei absorb and re-emit electromagnetic radiation when experiencing a magnetic field. From the spectral characteristics of different proteins, Lewis can work out structural and dynamical features. Lewis has also pioneered innovative ways of incorporating isotopes into samples to reveal otherwise ‘invisible’ details.
Lewis’s scientific papers are amongst the most highly cited in chemistry. His awards include the Favelle Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the Gunther Laukien Prize for cutting-edge experimental NMR research, and the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Khorana Prize.