Doane College will use a $292,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and its Plant Genome Research Program to complete a collaborative project that will help advance understanding of plants and their genes.
Doane will collaborate with the University of Wisconsin and the University of Florida on the project, which integrates engineering and computer science methodologies into biology to improve the ability to detect and quantify plant phenotypes. This will help identify examples when one phenotype can predict another.
"The data will help us understand how ‘plastic' genomes are in response to the environment and the results have the potential to have broad applications across biology," said Tessa Durham Brooks, an assistant professor of biology who will lead Doane's portion of the research.
The grant was one of 28 new research awards totaling $101.9 million for plant genomics. According to the American Society of Plant Biologists, the grants and the research they fund have the potential to improve the ability to enhance agricultural productivity, grow nutritious foods, and diminish the effects of devastating plant parasites. The projects use the techniques of modern genomics-sequencing and analyzing plant genetic material-to advance understanding of how genes function and interact with the environment in economically important crop plants. Each project will also incorporate outreach and educational activities, engaging K-12, community college, and undergraduate students and teachers-as well as the public-in plant-related activities.
Doane students will be integral to the success of the project, first by collecting a data set, and then collaborating with Wisconsin and Florida teams to analyze the data and pursue independent projects that arise from the data, Brooks said. It will involve not only biology students, but also physics students interested in imaging analysis and computation.