Dennis A. Dougherty is the George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Dougherty is perhaps best known for the development of the cation-π interaction, a powerful noncovalent binding interaction that is widely employed in both small molecule and macromolecular recognition in biology and chemistry. His current research is focused on molecular neurobiology, applying the mindset and tools of physical organic chemistry to the complex proteins of neuroscience. Target receptors include the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, the 5-HT3 (serotonin) receptor, and related systems. A highlight of this work has been the evaluation of the binding modes of nicotine at receptors in the CNS vs. the periphery, revealing the critical role that cation-π interactions play in establishing the addictive properties of nicotine.
Dougherty is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), and he has received numerous awards, including: the Biopolymers Murray Goodman Award, the ACS James Flack Norris Award for Physical Organic Chemistry, the Hoffmann Medal of the University of Zurich, the Tolman Medal, the AstraZeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, and designation as a Javits Neuroscience Investigator by NIH. Dougherty has been recognized with several teaching awards at Caltech, including the Richard Feynman Prize. He is also the co-author, with Professor Eric Anslyn, of the influential textbook, Modern Physical Organic Chemistry.