Tina Dominguez Martin awarded prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship

  • May 30, 2018
  • cyanobacteria, postdoctoral researchers, Research, Award
  • Homepage News, Faculty & Staff, Research, Students, Biochemistry, Plant Research Laboratory
Image of Tina Dominguez Martin in Cheryl Kerfeld's lab
Tina Dominguez Martin is the recipient of a prestigious Marie Curie Global Fellowship in recognition of her outstanding research on marine cyanobacterial photoprotection. Photo courtesy of MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory.

Maria Agustina (Tina) Dominguez Martin, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Cheryl Kerfeld, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Structural Bioengineering at Michigan State University, is the recipient of a prestigious Marie Curie Global Fellowship. The award will provide up to $300,000 over three years to support Dominguez Martin’s research on marine cyanobacterial photoprotection.

Marie Curie Fellowships, awarded by the European Commission, support researchers at all stages of their careers, regardless of age or nationality. Dominguez Martin was among 1,348 winners out of a pool of more than 9,000 applicants.

“I am extremely happy to receive this award,” Dominguez Martin said. “It is very competitive and well-known worldwide, and helps awardees establish new career paths. I will use this opportunity to advance my research as I pursue an academic career.”

Her project, PHOTO-CY-APPs, will focus on how two species of marine cyanobacteria protect themselves from damaging, excessive exposure to light. The cyanobacteria in question, Synechococcus and Crocosphaera watsonii, are some of most abundant photosynthetic organisms on the planet. They photoprotect primarily through the Orange Carotenoid Protein (OCP).

“We think photoprotection could be a key reason why marine cyanobacteria are so abundant and successful,” said Dominguez Martin. “After all, they constantly manage high levels of light exposure in the open ocean.

“My goal is to characterize the OCP and its evolutionary precursors in the two important species of marine cyanobacteria,” she explained. “We think their proteins have particular features that will help us understand how photoprotection works in the ocean. We suspect their pigment content may differ from that in their freshwater counterparts.”

Dominguez Martin’s research will include her work in the Kerfeld lab and in Jose Manuel Garcia-Fernandez’s lab in Spain. Her project also falls under the Kerfeld lab’s broader goal of engineering synthetic OCP for agriculture, biotechnology and health applications.

“I would like to thank Cheryl Kerfeld for her continuous mentoring as I pursue my scientific career,” Dominguez Martin said.  “I wouldn’t have received this fellowship without her help and that of the lab in Spain. I feel so thankful for this opportunity.”

“Tina has chosen an important research question that will lead to a new, fundamental understanding of how organisms respond to light and will result in novel biotechnological applications,” Kerfeld said.  “The Marie Curie Fellowship is a great investment in the career of talented young scientist.”

Before joining the Kerfeld laboratory, Dominguez Martin received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Cordoba, Spain. Her thesis was on nitrogen metabolism in the most abundant and smallest marine cyanobacteria.

The fellowship is named after Marie SkÅ‚odowska Curie, a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize; the first person and only woman to win twice; the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences; and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris and, in 1995, became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.


Banner image: Structure of an orange carotenoid protein. Graphic courtesy of Tina Dominguez Martin.

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