Innovating Agriculture from Lab to Field
The deadline for application to the Plant Systems Biology Program is December 15, 2013 and the deadline for the Molecular Plant Breeding Program is March 1, 2014.
Lorenz is a DuPont Young Professor
Aaron Lorenz, assistant professor of agronomy and horticulture, is one of nine professors in the nation to be honored by the DuPont Young Professors program.
The awards are given to advance key research that is relevant to DuPont. Lorenz is part of the 2012 class of honorees.
Lorenz has been at UNL since 2010. He was honored for his work in the optimization of genomic selection for plant breeding. The award is $25,000 per year, renewed for up to three years.
Lorenz received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture-plant science from the University of Minnesota, a master’s in plant breeding from Iowa State University and a doctorate in plant breeding and genomics from the University of Wisconsin.
NSF award aids Basset's coenzyme Q research
Nearly all organisms — from animals and plants to many bacteria — require the micronutrient ubiquinone, or coenzyme Q, for survival. Humans produce it in their bodies and consume it in their diets. But scientists don’t understand how cells produce this vital compound.
Gilles Basset, an assistant professor of agronomy and horticulture, is using a new approach to study this elusive nutrient. His research may lead to improving human health. A faculty member in UNL’s Center for Plant Science Innovation, Basset studies how plants synthesize and metabolize chemicals beneficial to health.
He’s expanding his ubiquinone research with a five-year, $784,820 Faculty Early Career Development Program, or CAREER Award, from the National Science Foundation. This prestigious award helps outstanding pre-tenure faculty develop as teacher-scholars and researchers.
“We know that they are very important, but we don’t understand how living organisms make these compounds,” Basset said of ubiquinones. “Understanding how they are made will allow us to, for instance, improve plant-based food.”Read more about Dr. Basset's ubiquinone research at Today@UNL.
Alfano named AAAS fellow
Three UNL professors have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science — the world's largest general scientific society. The tradition of naming AAAS Fellows goes back to 1874. It is a peer-designated selection based on scientifically or socially distinguished efforts among scientists to advance science or its application.
This is the first time three UNL scientists achieved the honor in the same year.
UNL's new AAAS Fellows are L. Dennis Smith, for distinguished contributions to developmental biology and leadership and advocacy on education; James Alfano, for distinguished contributions in research of plant pathogens; and Mike Nastasi, for contributions in energy, manufacturing, nanotechnology and microelectronics.
This year, 702 members are awarded this honor by AAAS, and will be presented with a certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 16 during the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.
Alfano, Charles Bessey Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, has been at UNL since 2000. He said he was flattered when he learned he had been named to the esteemed list after being nominated by UNL plant pathology professor James Van Etten, who also is an AAAS Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It feels great, and it's nice to be recognized by such a prestigious organization," Alfano said. "It was an honor just being nominated, a recognition of our hard work, and we're going to continue to work hard."
Alfano researches how bacterial pathogens cause disease in plants and how their strategies differ from the strategies employed by the bacterial pathogens of animals.
His seven-member lab, which is associated with the Department of Plant Pathology and the Center for Plant Science Innovation at UNL, focuses on the pathogen Pseudomonas syringae and its interaction with plants. The pathogen's key feature is a bacterial protein secretion system that injects bacterial proteins into plant cells, which allows it to grow in plants and eventually cause disease. Alfano's research delves into plant cells to determine precisely how the bacterial proteins modify them to favor disease.
"We’re working to understand how and what (P. syringae) is targeting inside plant cells," he said. "Our ultimate goal is to identify new components of plant immunity. We've learned a lot about this plant-pathogen interaction — now we want to transform that knowledge into improvements in agriculture."
Plant Science Retreat Presentation and Poster Winners
The Plant Science Retreat, a biennial event for members of the University of Nebraska (UNL) Plant Science Community, was held at Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City on October 19 & 20, 2012. Dr. Patrick Schnable, Director of the Center for Plant Genomics at Iowa State University, gave the keynote address, "Structural Variation in Maize: Consequences and Opportunities." Dr. Brian Larkins, Associate Vice Chancellor for the Life Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was a special guest speaker, presenting "A Vision for Coordinating the Life Sciences at UNL." Faculty members, post docs and graduate students gave talks and presented posters on the latest in plant science research, with prizes awarded to each of the top two oral and poster presenters. Congratulations to graduate students Adam Voshall, Athen Kimberlin, and Meng Xie on top placement of their oral presentations. Congratulations also to graduate students Kyla Ronhovde and Kamaldeep Virdi on the top selection of their posters.
Assistant Professor Jeffrey Mower named recipient of the Branham Endowment Junior Faculty for Excellence in Research Award
Jeffrey Mower, with the Center for Plant Science Innovation (CPSI) and Agronomy and Horticulture Department has been named as recipient of the Junior Faculty for Excellence in Research Award provided by the Branham Endowment Fund for 2012-2013. The Award is given annually by the Agricultural Research Division to up to two tenure-track Assistant Professors with an ARD appointment who has five or less years of professional service at UNL and is based upon publication record, evidence of external funding activity and peer recognition.
Jeff Mower received a BS in molecular biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1999. He worked for a year in the Human Genetics Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston before moving on to graduate school at Indiana University Bloomington, where he received a MS in bioinformatics in 2004 and a PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology in 2005. After graduation, he spent two years as a postdoc at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. He is currently an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Center for Plant Science Innovation and Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. He has published 17 research papers in journals including Nature and Science and two book chapters. His research aims to address fundamental questions on the evolution of genome structure, function and content in plants using a combination of experimental and computational approaches which has applications to understanding disease resistance in crop plants and developing algae for biofuels. Mower takes an active role within his department, university-wide affiliations, teaching and mentoring, professional outreach activities and the Lincoln community. His nominators stated that he is a highly valued colleague who has demonstrated great potential for making major advances in genomics research as well as innovations in the classroom.
Significant advances in knowledge within the plant sciences will be necessary to achieve sustainable agricultural systems and a steady supply of renewable resources, including biofuels. To accomplish these goals the Plant Sciences Program trains students in an integrative manner, allowing them to explore the frontiers of knowledge and gain experience for a variety of career opportunities.