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Troy, N.Y. -  2/26/2007

LRC Researcher Awarded Funding to Explore Effect of Light on Human Phototransduction

Mariana Figueiro with the Daysimeter, a prototype tool designed at the LRC for light and health research.
Mariana Figueiro, an assistant professor at the Lighting Research Center, has received the James D. Watson Investigator award, which includes a $200,000 grant, from the New York State Office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research (NYSTAR). With this funding, Dr. Figueiro, the director of the LRC’s Light and Health program, is exploring the effects of light on human physiological rhythms.

“Our research will examine the effects different wavelengths of light have on a novel class of photoreceptors, as well as the associated retinal mechanisms associated with human phototransduction and their respective role in regulating physiological rhythms,” explained Dr. Figueiro. “I am very pleased to receive this award, and I am grateful to NYSTAR for supporting our efforts,” she added.

The director of the LRC, Mark Rea, said the research being funded by the grant could make a real difference in lighting practice. “Dr. Figueiro’s work could redefine the way lighting is manufactured and installed in our work and home environments,” said Rea.

Michael J. Relyea, executive director of NYSTAR, said the Watson awards are designed to recognize and support outstanding scientists and engineers who show potential for leadership and scientific discovery early in their careers in the field of biotechnology. “The world-class research being performed by some of the best young minds at New York’s colleges and universities is supported by these grants and complements our other high-tech economic development initiatives,” said Relyea.

In announcing this year’s awards, which totaled $1.4 million, Relyea explained that the James D. Watson Investigator initiative is part of the $225 million Generating Employment through New York State Science (Gen*NY*sis) program. NYSTAR’s programs are designed to spur technology-based research and economic development in New York State; promote national and international research collaboration and innovation; better leverage the State’s research expertise and funding for investments from the federal government, foundations, businesses, and others; and to acquire venture capital funding.

About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC conducts research in solid-state lighting, light and health, transportation lighting and safety, energy efficiency, and plant pathology. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. With 35 full-time faculty and staff, 15 graduate students, and a 30,000 sq. ft. laboratory space, the LRC is the largest university-based lighting research and education organization in the world.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America's first technological research university. The university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science "to the common purposes of life."