Assistant Professor James Letts Wins Department of Energy Early Career Award

Plants in light
Letts’ project will help generate new knowledge and hypotheses about how plants generate energy.

Three UC Davis researchers, including Assistant Professor James Letts, will receive funding from the Early Career Research Program of the U.S. Department of Energy. They are among 83 researchers at U.S. universities and national laboratories funded by the program this year. The awards are of $150,000 for summer salary and research expenses each year and are intended to last for five years.

Letts, who is an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology in the College, is working to characterize the mitochondrial protein complexes and supercomplexes that allow plants to generate chemical energy by mitochondrial respiration. A deep understanding of the structure and function of these complexes will give insights into bioenergy conversion. It will also generate new knowledge and hypotheses about how plants generate energy, advancing the field of plant respiration and bioenergetics and furthering our understanding of other aspects of plant biology.

“Maintaining our nation’s brain trust of world-class scientists and researchers is one of DOE’s top priorities — and that means we need to give them the resources they need to succeed early on in their careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a news release announcing the awards. “These awardees show exceptional potential to help us tackle America’s toughest challenges and secure our economic competitiveness for decades to come.”

To be eligible, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a national laboratory, who received a Ph.D. within the past 10 years.

Media contact:
  • Andy Fell, News and Media Relations, 530-304-8888, ahfell@ucdavis.edu
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