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May 31, 2018

Postdoctoral researcher awarded prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship

Maria Agustina Dominguez Martin, a postdoctoral researcher for the College of Natural Science in the laboratory of Cheryl Kerfeld, 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. 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.”

Dominguez Martin’s 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, or 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.

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.”

Kerfeld is a Hannah Distinguished Professor of Structural Bioengineering at Michigan State University.

“Maria 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 a talented young scientist.”

Before joining the Kerfeld lab, Dominguez Martin received her doctorate 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.

By: Val Osowski