Dabney-Smith receives $750,000 national research grantJan 22, 2010
Carole Dabney-Smith, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Miami University, has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) new Early Career Research Program for her work in the assembly of photosynthesis complexes and its impact on the future of biofuel production.
Dabney-Smith is among 69 scientists from across the nation who have been awarded a total of $85 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with the research monies spread over five years. This new program is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years when many scientists do their most formative work, according to the DOE. She is the only researcher from Ohio to earn this grant.
Dabney-Smith's research, “Thylakoid Assembly and Folded Protein Transport by the Tat Pathway,” focuses on how proteins move across plant cell membranes.
“Plants use photosynthesis to capture sunlight and turn it into molecules that can be used by humans as either food or fuel. Understanding how photosynthesis works at a molecular level, including how all of the parts are assembled, is vital for biofuel production,” she explained.
Dabney-Smith's long-term research goal is to investigate how this assembly occurs by focusing on how the proteins involved arrive at their proper location. Often getting to the proper location involves transport across cell membranes. In plants, two transport pathways are found in the chloroplast membranes where photosynthesis occurs. Dabney-Smith will study one of these pathways, the chloroplast Twin arginine translocation pathway (cpTat). The cpTat pathway is essential for delivering many required proteins for photosynthesis to their proper location for assembly into functional complexes.
“Despite its importance, little is known about how the cpTat pathway works,” she said. “Understanding this will lead to plants that are better at photosynthesis, increasing biofuel energy yields.”
Awardees were selected from a pool of 1,750 university- and national laboratory-based applicants.
Dabney-Smith joined Miami in 2008. She received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a doctorate in biochemistry from The University of Tennessee Knoxville.