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Assistant professor receives award

May. 29, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Derrick Kolling, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Marshall University, is among the recently announced winners of the Spring 2011 Cottrell College Science Awards.

He will receive a $35,000 grant to continue his study of the photoassembly of the oxygen-evolving complex of photosystem II in extremophilic phototrophs.

According to his biography, Kolling's research interests involve two areas of photosynthesis that can be applied to alternative energy production. The first area is studying the chemistry of photosynthetic water oxidation. This is approached by observing the light-dependent assembly of the catalyst responsible for this water oxidation; this catalyst is a manganese-oxo cube, which cycles through five physiologically relevant oxidation states.

The lab uses oxygen electrodes, fluorometry and EPR spectroscopy to identify and characterize the various intermediates of the assembly. This provides information about the assembly mechanism and further, clues about how the catalyst works once it is assembled. Understanding the chemistry of water oxidation will allow researchers to build an abiotic catalyst that can extract electrons from water by using light energy.

The second area of study involves producing biodiesel from algae. Students are using gas chromatography linked to a mass spectrometer to map the metabolic pathways in algae under specific environmental conditions, such as elevated carbon dioxide and nitrogen depletion. Understanding what conditions result in elevated production of fatty acids (the precursor to biodiesel) and the mechanism by which these fatty acids are produced will allow researchers to genetically engineer algae to constitutively produce high levels of fatty acids.

The $1.8 million in total grants are being provided by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.