University of Richmond biology professor receives $400,000 NIH grant, undergraduate students will help with research

September 2, 2016

Omar QuinteroUniversity of Richmond biology professor Omar Quintero has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Services in the amount of $433,070 over three years. 

His project focuses on mitochondria, which are known as the “powerhouse of the cell” because they are responsible for converting the food we take into a form of energy that our cells use. 

“We cannot effectively improve the lives of those who are in pain or dealing with disease if we do not understand the basic workings of our cells and tissues,” Quintero said.  

“Mitochondria are vitally important to the life and health of the cell, and need to be positioned properly within cells so that they can do their job efficiently,” explained Quintero. “This foundational research aims to understand how cells use the protein we study to move and position their mitochondria. By understanding how this process works under normal, healthy conditions, we hope to better understand how problems with mitochondrial movement and positioning might contribute to disease.”

Quintero will mentor and work with two University of Richmond undergraduates, who will participate in this research. They will work in collaboration with physiological sciences professor Eva Forgacs from Eastern Virginia Medical School.

“I’m grateful this grant means that I can include UR students to help them see if a research career may be right for them,” Quintero said. “UR students will contribute to all aspects of the work, collaborate with scientists from other institutions and learn how teaming up can lead to meaningful and relevant discoveries. We are demonstrating how valuable an inclusive, interdisciplinary approach is to developing the next generation of scientists within a liberal arts environment.”  

Quintero has taught at UR since 2012. He received his bachelor’s degree from Penn State and completed his Ph.D. at Duke University, followed by a post-doctoral position at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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