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Alcorn scientist Marta Piva awarded grant by Department of Defense

13 a Marta Piva

Dr. Marta A. Piva.

Alcorn State, Miss. (June 7, 2013) - Dr. Marta A. Piva, associate professor of biology at Alcorn State University, was recently awarded a $554,958 grant for her research on “Novel Pathways of Mitochondrial Ribosome Assembly” by the Department of Defense under its Research and Education Program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.

Dr. Piva serves as principal investigator, and Dr. Jon Ignacio Moreno, assistant professor of biology, is co-investigator for the project that began in May 2013 and will run for 36 months, during which the two scientists and two students will work on elucidating molecular events that take place in the early steps of mitochondrial ribosome assembly, a very poorly researched, but crucial aspect of this process.

“Mitochondrial functionality and, therefore, the ability to produce energy to sustain physically and mentally demanding tasks severely decline with age. So, it poses a dilemma for the modern army: experienced and highly qualified soldiers are too old for the required tasks, their physical and/or cognitive performance capabilities are significantly less than that of younger people,” says Dr. Piva. “Data obtained during our research will shed light on the processes that regulate mitochondrial biogenesis. A clear understanding of these processes is important for effective interventions (prevention, reversal, or delay) of the mitochondrial changes that play an integral role in physical and mental performance.”

This work will define, for the first time, the nuclear-encoded initiator of the chain of events that leads to the creation of the mitochondrial ribosome, in response to a greater environmental demand for mitochondria, and its precise role in generating the proto-ribosome, an essential step towards the formation of a mature, functional organelle.

“Dr. Piva is an outstanding researcher, who recently received the Alcorn State University Presidential Award for Research Excellence,” stated Dr. Robert Sizemore, acting chair for the Department of Biological Sciences. “The Department is elated for Dr. Piva to have received the grant that will provide Alcorn with much needed state-of-the-art scientific equipment that will enhance the University’s research capabilities and support a laboratory where the students will be trained under the guidance of experienced researchers.”

Dr. Piva added, “Over the last seven years at Alcorn, we were able to build a theoretical and practical foundation that allowed us to put together a successful proposal and earn this prestigious grant. We look forward to working on this important project and making it a success.