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Scientists honored at Consortium

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Senator Tom Udall recognized Sangeeta Negi of the New Mexico Consortium (NMC) for achieving a two-fold increase in bio-mass productivity in algae Friday. Loreen Lamoureux, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico (UNM) was recognized for her work on rapid e-coli detection methods.

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“These NMC mentored researchers have bridged groups, disciplines, institutions and very long distances to perform exceptional work with an impact on society,” said Katharine Chartrand, NMC Executive Director. “They embody the spirit of the NMC and the future of science.”

UNM student Loreen Lamoureux develops techniques to rapidly detect e-coli in the meat food supply. This collaboration involving researchers from UNM, the University of Nebraska (UN), LANL and the NMC seeks to detect e-coli contamination early in the meat packing process in order to prevent e-coli outbreaks.

Lamoureux worked as part of a team led by Dr. Rodney Moxley of UN to purify a key biomarker from seven different strains of shiga toxin carrying E. coli.

The team developed assays for the biomarkers and biophysical methods for the characterization of molecular interactions of the biomarkers in cell membranes.

In addition to Dr. Moxley, Lamoureux’s mentors on this project are Dr. Steven Graves of UNM, Dr. Mukundan of LANL and Dr. Montano of the Center for Integrated Technologies at LANL.

NMC Associate Research Scientist Sangeeta Negi works on improving biomass productivity in algae, a critical factor in making algae a viable feedstock for bio-fuels. Negi has developed methods to manipulate the size of the light harvesting antenna in algae, achieving two-fold improvements in photosynthetic efficiency in algal cultures and corresponding increases in biomass productivity.

This is the largest increase in biomass productivity achieved to date for engineered algal strains. NMSU will carry out the first outdoor cultivation trials with these improved algal strains in 2014. This technology could improve water use efficiency and biomass productivity substantially in other crops as well.

Lamoureux's work is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2012-68003-30155 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Negi's work was supported by grants to Dr. Richard Sayre from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Basic Energy Sciences, part of the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC) Energy Frontier Research Center, DE-SC0001035. PARC is led by Dr. Bob Blankenship of the University of Washington, St. Louis.