(Posted September 23, 2002)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Jill Keeney, associate professor of biology at Juniata College, received a prestigious three-year $123,650 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study retroelements within yeast that behave in similar fashion to infectious viruses.

Keeney and her undergraduate research assistants will be studying how a single retroelement uses a particular gene within the yeast DNA to regulate its own replication.

"The grant will give students the opportunity to be intimately involved in a very relevant and exciting area of biology," Keeney explains. "We work with yeast because it is not infectious and we can work with it safely, yet yeast has many biochemical and biological processes that are similar to those in the cells of larger organisms. We are studying how these cells replicate in a way very similar to how retroviruses replicate -- such as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS."

Keeney's grant award extends her research on this topic from a previous NIH grant that provided $75,000 in funds over a three-year period. In addition, she is completing the final year of a six-year $432,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation that also funds Keeney's research on related genetic issues within the cell structure of yeast.
Her research on both projects has focused on finding methods to identify which genes are controlled by the retroelements within the yeast cells.

Keeney joined the Juniata faculty in 1994. Previously she served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.