Tina Dominguez-Martin awarded prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship

  • May 31, 2018
  • Kerfeld lab, awards, future scientists
  • Homepage Non-Feature News, Future Scientists
  • By Igor Houwat, Maria Agustina Dominguez-Martin

Maria Agustina (Tina) Dominguez-Martin, a post-doc in the Kerfeld lab, has earned the prestigious Marie Curie Global Fellowship. The award provides up to $300,000 over 3 years to support her research on marine cyanobacterial photoprotection.

Marie Curie Fellowships, awarded by the European Union, support the best and most promising researchers at all stages of their careers, regardless of age or nationality. Tina was among over 1,300 winners out of a pool of over 9,000 applicants.

“I feel extremely happy about this award. It is very competitive and well-known worldwide,” Tina says. “It also helps awardees establish new career paths, and I will use this opportunity to pursue an academic career.”

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

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

“I aim to characterize the OCP and its evolutionary precursors in the two important species of marine cyanobacteria,” Tina adds. “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.”

Tina’s research will span the Kerfeld lab in the US and Jose Manuel Garcia-Fernandez’s lab in Spain. The project also falls under the Kerfeld lab’s wider goal to engineer synthetic OCP for agriculture, biotechnology, and health applications.

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

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

Before joining the Kerfeld lab, Tina obtained her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. 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 woman to become a professor at the University of Paris; and the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.