Rosemary Stuart, professor of biological sciences at Marquette University, has been named the university’s 2011 recipient of the Lawrence G. Haggerty Award for Research Excellence, an annual award that recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated scholarly distinction and an all-encompassing belief in excellence.
Stuart, a resident of Whitefish Bay, researches mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes. Mitochondria are the part of cells that produce energy, which comes in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the “energy currency.” Enzymes — small, molecular machines — work together to produce the ATP molecule.
Stuart’s research is focused on two aspects of this process — how those enzymes are assembled in the mitochondria, and how their level of work is regulated.
How efficiently that molecular process is working is critical, according to Stuart. If mitochondria are not working properly and not enough ATP is being produced, it will limit the energy output of the body. If these enzymes are too active or unregulated, toxic byproducts can result.
Stuart conducts her research with yeast cells because of their simplicity and ease of use. Yet, processes observed in single-celled yeast can still be applied to complex organisms, including humans.
“We’re focusing on when the system is working optimally,” said Stuart. “What we are discovering in understanding the fundamentals in a healthy situation, we can use to find out what’s going on in a diseased model.”
The knowledge that she is generating can then be used by other researchers to translate into the treatment of diseases and medical conditions. Some heart and neurological conditions in humans, for example, can be traced back to mitochondrial defects.
Stuart is the first faculty member to have received both the Haggerty Award and a Teaching Excellence Award (2008) from the university.
Stuart, who received a $5,000 stipend with this award, earned her Ph.D. from Ludwig-Maximillians Universität, München, Germany; and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University College, Dublin, Ireland.