Mario Rivera joins LSU


Professor Mario Rivera (left) 
Professor William A. Pryor (right)


Following a nationwide search over the past couple of years, we are delighted to announce that Professor Mario Rivera will be joining LSU Chemistry in Spring 2018. He will be the inaugural William A. Pryor Chair in Chemistry. The chair honors the legacy of Professor Pryor’s research in the field of oxidative biology and free radicals. The primary criterion for the chair is that research interests lie at the interface of chemistry, biology and medicine, with clear relevance to human health.

Mario was born in Bolivia, a country that was experiencing considerable turmoil as a teenage Mario was considering his future. He and some classmates investigated prospects to study abroad and Mario moved to Guadalajara, Mexico to study chemistry. He carried out undergraduate research under the guidance of the late Tetsuya Ogura and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in 1984. He came to the USA to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona where he worked with the late Quintus Fernando (Chemistry) and H. Vasken Aposhian (Toxicology) on the complexation properties of molecules targeted for lead detoxification in humans, which resulted in a dissertation titled, “Complexing Properties of 2,3-Dimercaptosuccinic acid and its Monomethyl and Dimethyl Esters.” He stayed on at the University of Arizona, working with F. Ann Walker, also in the field of bioinorganic chemistry, developing skills to merge recombinant DNA methodology and NMR spectroscopy to study paramagnetic heme proteins.

In 1994, Assistant Professor Rivera began his independent career at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK. He moved to the University of Kansas in 2003 and was promoted to Full Professor in 2006. His teaching has included standard courses in general chemistry, analytical chemistry and graduate classes in NMR spectroscopy and electrochemistry. Since 2015, he has been involved in steering the General Chemistry lecture sequence offered to science majors.

Throughout his career, Professor Rivera has been involved in investigating structure function relationships in heme proteins and in elucidating the molecular mechanisms of heme-iron acquisition and iron homeostasis in bacteria. His publications have contributed to shape current understanding of heme-iron utilization and iron metabolism in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. His current direction is on understanding the fate of iron in the bacterial cytosol, with emphasis on the roles played by iron storage proteins, such as bacterioferritin. These studies have led him to propose the hijacking of iron storage/mobilization from bacterioferritin as a potential avenue for the development of small molecule probes for the rational perturbation of bacterial iron homeostasis and possibly the development of new antibacterial agents. Earlier this year he published a review titled, “Bacterioferritin: Structure, Dynamics and Protein-Protein Interactions at Play in Iron Storage and Mobilization” (Acc. Chem. Res. 2017, 50, 331-340).

Professor Rivera has served his former Departments well, with special interests in graduate student recruiting, junior faculty mentoring and various aspects of equipment acquisition and management. He has retained funding from both NSF and NIH through tough times over two decades and is well-known in the bioinorganic community for his service on review panels and conference organization and participation. We look forward to Mario joining us and sharing his experience and vision for the chemistry-biology interface at LSU.