NSMU biology professor earns prestigious award for research in Northern Portugal


Elba Serrano, Ph.D., Regents Professor, NSF HSI National STEM Resource Hub, NMSU Lead PI. (NMSU Photo by Josh Bachman)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Elba Serrano, a Regents professor of biology at New Mexico State University, is headed to Northern Portugal for a study on marine algae as a source of food for brain health.

Serrano’s trip is funded through support from the U.S. State Department after the biology professor earned a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for her research. She’ll join fellow researcher Maria Rosário Domingues to work on a project titled “Seaweed and the Brain: Using Lipidomics to Determine how Algal Lipids affect the Nervous System.”

The pair are set to begin their study in March 2022 and continue for four months.

“A little-appreciated fact is the brain relies on healthy fat to maintain brain health — omega and other polyunsaturated fats and the right amount of cholesterol are critical for brain function,” Serrano said. “Over half our brain weight is fat. Our research can help identify which marine algae are promising to develop as a food source that provides fats that will support brain health.”

It’s not the first time Serrano has been recognized for her work. She’s also received grants and awards from the National Institutes of Health R01 and R25 Programs, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Whitehall Foundation.

She is the lead investigator for the National Science Foundation’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution National STEM HUB.

Serrano has also worked at NMSU for decades and has used her role as a researcher to mentor, lead and train students.

“I am honored to be selected as a U.S. Fulbright Faculty Scholar during the program’s 75th anniversary,” said Serrano. “ It is my hope that my Fulbright will build ties between Portugal and the U.S. and New Mexico and open doors for student exchange. In my opinion, an international study abroad experience should be part of every student’s education.”

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