UNL’s Paul Black and Rodrigo Franco Cruz have been named outstanding scientists by the UNL chapter of Sigma Xi.
The awards were presented during the international science and engineering honorary research society’s banquet on May 1. The society’s programs and activities promote scientific enterprise and honor scientific achievement.
Black, chair of biochemistry and director of UNL’s Center for Biological Chemistry, was named Outstanding Senior Scientist by Sigma Xi.
Black is internationally recognized for his major contributions to lipid research. His early ground-breaking discoveries included elucidation of the mechanisms involved in the transport of long-chain fatty acids into bacterial cells, the role of lipids as signaling molecules in E. coli, and cloning and characterization of the genes involved in fatty acid transport and activation in this bacterium.
He and his research group discovered and characterized the transporters that carry fatty acids into yeast and demonstrated fatty acid transport was tightly coupled with activation of the fatty acids through an integrated mechanism involving the FAA1 or FAA4 and FAT1 genes. This work defined one of the key the mechanisms by which eukaryotic cells transport, activate, and traffic externally derived fatty acids. His work has expanded to address key fatty acid transport proteins in mammalian systems, especially in the context of fatty acid trafficking and triglyceride (oil) biosynthesis in algae as part of a larger group at UNL for potential production of renewable biofuels.
Franco, an assistant professor of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences, and a member of UNL’s Redox Biology Center, was named Outstanding Young Scientist by Sigma Xi.
Franco was cited for his achievements in determining how oxidative stress and redox signaling regulate neuronal cell injury or death associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. He investigates the molecular mechanisms involved in neuronal cell damage or toxicity induced by environmental toxicants such as pesticides. He is particularly focused on discovering how chemical signaling in reduction/oxidation reactions that lead to free radical formation cause damage or death in various cell and tissue types.
Rod Moxley, professor of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences, is president of the UNL chapter of Sigma Xi.