DAYTON, Ohio--When Emily Webb died at the age of 79 late in 2002, she, and her husband Henry who preceded her in death, left a legacy devoted to scientific discovery at Wright State University.
Of modest means, this couple wanted to "make a mark" for their community and willed the majority of their estate, more than $850,000, to the research programs of Lawrence J. Prochaska, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in both the School of Medicine and the College of Science and Mathematics.
Prochaska's research focuses upon the energy and oxygen requirements of the heart and brain. A subcellular structure, the mitochondrion, uses oxygen to transform foodstuffs into metabolic energy. This energy is critical for vital processes, such as the beating of the heart and transmission of information from the brain to the peripheral nervous system.
During a heart attack or stroke in the brain, oxygen transport by blood is physically blocked. These tissues die in about 15 minutes due to exhaustion of the metabolic energy reserves. Prochaska's work examines how oxygen is utilized to conserve energy at the molecular level in mitochondria and how programmed cell death may be triggered by the loss of energy. Understanding these processes at the molecular level may lead to interventions that increase the survival time of tissue during a heart attack or stroke.
"The money from the Webb's generous gift will enable us to expand our research efforts and to try innovative approaches in our experiments," says Prochaska. "I am most grateful for the trust and confidence the Webbs placed in me." Dan Organisciak, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry, adds, "Mrs. Webb was a gracious lady who visited Wright State several times and it was a pleasure to know her. I am delighted that she chose the department and the work of Dr. Prochaska in her bequest."
Prochaska received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from The Ohio State University and completed postdoctoral work at both Purdue University and the University of Oregon. He has been at Wright State University since 1980. He has served in several key positions of the Ohio Affiliate, American Heart Association (AHA), including President Elect, Chair of the Research Committee, and received the Distinguished Service Award from that organization in 2000. He currently serves as chair of the Molecular Biology Study Section for AHA. Prochaska has received several awards from the School of Medicine for his teaching and research, and he received the Faculty Excellence Award from the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education in 2002.
"This couple understood that scientific research is the key to better clinical treatments and will ultimately benefit everyone," says Howard M. Part, Dean of the School of Medicine.
Mr. and Mrs. Webb were long time residents of Dayton, and both retired from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base after 34 years of service.
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