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David Tierney named Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year

04/23/2013

David Tierney, Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year for 2013 (photo by Scott Kissell)
David Tierney, Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year for 2013 (photo by Scott Kissell)
David Tierney, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been named Miami University's Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year for 2013.

Tierney joined Miami in 2009 after teaching at the University of New Mexico, where he established a “distinguished record of accomplishment,” according to his nomination letter.

Tierney’s research focuses on the elucidation of structure/function relationships in metalloenzyme active sites, to gain a deeper understanding of enzyme mechanisms. His studies are designed to define the key structural details in metalloenzymes that will lead to the development of effective mechanism-based inhibitors for clinically important enzymes.

Many enzymes that regulate biological processes are metalloenzymes – proteins that contain a metal ion cofactor.

Tierney uses a suite of techniques to study the metal sites in Zn (zinc) enzymes in two areas of research: the development of targeted inhibitors for matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which have been implicated in the metastasis of cancers and other tumors; and, in collaboration with Michael Crowder, professor of chemistry, understanding the chemistry of metallo--β-lactamases, which confer resistance to penicillins.

In his short time at Miami, Tierney has published 18 research papers. “He has been equally prolific in terms of obtaining funding for his impressive research efforts,” said his nominator. “Between his own funding and that he obtained in collaboration with Crowder, approximately $800,000 in direct costs have been secured. In addition to that, he is finishing negotiations for the donation of several instruments to add to our equipment base."

Integrated paramagnetic resonance offers unprecedented level of detail

That equipment base is substantial.

Tierney’s research involves the use of Co(II) [cobalt (II)] as a spectroscopic probe of metal sites in proteins, using integrated paramagnetic resonance.

According to Tierney, his is one of the only labs in the world that integrates all variations of paramagnetic resonance, all with instruments available at Miami. Instrumentation used in his laboratory or in Miami's Ohio Advanced EPR Lab and the High Field Magnetic Resonance Lab includes:

• electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR)
• electron-nuclear double resonance (ENDOR),
• electron-spin-echo envelope modulation (ESEEM),
• nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR),
• NMR relaxometry

The concurrent application of all of these techniques affords an unprecedented level of structural and bonding detail, according to Tierney.

Valuable Mentor

Tierney has “truly been a valuable mentor to our students,” according to his nomination letter. “He has one of our largest, and certainly most productive cadre of undergraduate students. He has an active graduate student research group as well."

Tierney was honored at the Sigma Xi annual banquet in April.

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