Aaron Leconte named Cottrell Scholar
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Aaron Leconte
The North American firefly (Photinus pyralis), also known as the ‘lightning bug’, gets its name from the fact that it glows and flickers in the evenings. This glowing, known as bioluminescence, comes from a chemical reaction that is performed by a specific protein, luciferase. This protein can be taken out of the context of the firefly and used by scientists to track and record biological events and processes to better understand cancer, bacterial infections, and more.

Assistant professor of Chemistry Aaron Leconte has received a prestigious Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement to both study and further improve this useful protein.

“Bioluminescence is very useful, but it could definitely be improved to create even more sensitive, precise and reliable imaging techniques,” Leconte notes. “There are a long list of enzyme properties that scientists would love to be able to tweak, but proteins are incredibly complex machines. We are working hard to think creatively about how to best tune these proteins to the needs of the field”.

The grant supports both work in Leconte’s lab and supports incorporating research on luciferase into a classroom environment. While Leconte’s group is performing the protein engineering in his research lab, introductory chemistry students will be performing foundational biochemical experiments to better understand this useful enzyme. The program will give first-year undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and will fund opportunities for the students to interact with other scientists working on luciferase, jumpstarting the research careers of young scientists.

This is the first year that the Cottrell Scholar Award has been awarded to faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions; Leconte is one of eight faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions to be awarded a Cottrell Scholar Award.


Back to News List