The University of Missouri recently received a boost to its plant genetics research with the receipt of three new Plant Genome Research Program awards from the National Science Foundation. The awards, which range from $600,000 to $1.5 million over five years, will support projects that further knowledge of how plant genes function and govern plants' interactions with their environment in three economically important crops -- corn, soybean, and canola.
Gary Stacey, a professor of plant sciences, is principal investigator on a four-year, $1.5 million project to use soybean root hairs as a model system for studying cellular function in plants. Co-investigators on the project include Dong Xu and Jianlin Cheng, MU professors of computer science with expertise in bioinformatics and systems biology. Stacey, Xu, and Cheng are all investigators in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center.
Scott Peck, associate professor of biochemistry in the Bond Life Sciences Center, is co-investigator on a four-year, multi-institutional research project that will aid in developing canola with greater tolerance to drought conditions.
James Birchler, a curators' professor of biological sciences, is co-principal investigator on a multi-institutional project to study the functional genomics of chromosome centromeres in maize.
Peck and Birchler will receive approximately $600,000 and $900,000, respectively, to support the portion of the work to be conducted at the University.
"These three new plant genome awards strengthen MU's already competitive ranking in plant science research," said professor John C. Walker, director of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) at the university. His remark makes reference to the university's recent ranking by Times Higher Education of 15th among top international educational institutions with the most influence in plant and animal sciences research reports and reviews, according to rankings. All of the investigators are members of the IPG.