(January 2007)

Contact: Lynn Stewart, Centenary News Service, 318-869-5120

Centenary Physics Professor Rodriguez Receives Biology Grant from National Science Foundation

Dr. Juan Rodriguez
Dr. Juan Rodriguez

SHREVEPORT, LA — "It's a sign of the times" says Centenary College Professor Juan Rodriguez of the $154,000 in funding he just received from the National Science Foundation.

"Biology is evolving to the point where research in the field often requires approaches based on mathematics, chemistry, physics, or engineering. The Centenary project just funded by the NSF is perhaps unusual in that it brings all of those disciplines into focus to address a single biological problem."

Dr. Rodriguez, who is a professor of physics and biophysics, as well as the Gus Wortham Professor of Engineering, will lead a team of undergraduate students from Centenary College in advancing all aspects of this research.

The aim of the three-year project is two-fold. The first goal is engineer instrumentation capable of tracking nitric oxide, which, Rodriguez explains, "is a molecule made within our bodies that triggers changes within cells or communicates changes to other cells."

Many scientific studies have suggested a variety of possible chemical mechanisms that enable this simple molecule to perform biological signaling, but many have never been confirmed. The proposed instrumentation will allow researchers to better track the chemical transformations that allow this molecule to act as a biological signal.

The second goal, Rodriguez said, "is to demonstrate the utility of the instrumentation in understanding how some white blood cells defend our bodies from bacteria, a process known to involve nitric oxide."

Rodriguez has received funding support for this project in the past two years from the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network, an initiative devoted to the enhancement of biomedical research throughout the State of Louisiana. He said the support was critical to gathering enough preliminary data demonstrating the feasibility of the project.