MSU students gain research experience through plant genomics program

April 30, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University will use a National Science Foundation grant to fund a 10-week summer research program designed to provide intensive experience for undergraduate students in areas such as biochemistry, genetics and cutting-edge biological science methods.

The $282,606 grant will allow 30 students to participate in the program "Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Plant Genomics." REU sites are funded by the NSF to provide research opportunities for undergraduate students.

"The plant genomics REU allows students to work alongside internationally respected scientists who are leaders in their fields," said Robert Last, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and the project's principal investigator. "The students are involved in research spanning bioinformatics and functional genomics to analytical chemistry and metabolic biochemistry."

The program draws upon the success of an existing summer program that is entering its fifth summer in May 2010 ( Funding in past years was provided by the university and individual NSF and Department of Energy research grants; it has included 60 students from more than 30 institutions across the country.

"The REU program teaches research skills and emphasizes research ethics," said Richard Allison, plant biology professor and co-principal investigator. "The program combines effective use of literature, Web-based resources and presentation skills as a way to improve critical thinking skills."

The plant genomics REU is open to students entering their junior or senior year of studies in biology, chemistry, engineering and computational sciences.
In addition to Last's lab, where students work on chloroplast biology and plant metabolism, other faculty on the grant include Cornelius Barry, Christoph Benning, Robin Buell, Eva Farre, Jianping Hu, Dan Jones, Beronda Montgomery-Kaguri, Tom Sharkey, Shinhan Shiu and Kevin Walker. Each faculty member will serve as a mentor and assist the students in producing research to complement their lab activities.

The National Science Foundation's REU program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program. Undergraduate student participants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. At MSU, there is one other REU, which has been in place for 15 years in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

For more information on the Plant Genomics REU, visit:

Michigan State University

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