Virginia Tech plant scientists win ASPB 2007 Grant Award

August 20, 2007

ROCKVILLE - Erin Dolan, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Outreach Director of Tech's Fralin Biotechnology Center along with David Lally, Coordinator of the Partnership for Research and Education in Plants (PREP), have won funding from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) 2007 Grant Awards Program. The ASPB Education Foundation awards up to $30,000 to ASPB members conducting research projects that will advance plant biology through K-16 education and public outreach activities. Dolan and Lally will use the funds to develop and disseminate a series of four interactive, video-integrated, web-based flash animation modules. Dolan states that these modules will, "highlight concepts in plant science in a dynamic, approachable way that is available to anyone with web access." The modules' content will coordinate directly with ASPB initiatives to teach plant biology, genetics and scientific inquiry. Subject matter also will align directly with high school biology curriculum including critical issues such as: functional genomics, differential regulation of gene expression, genome evolution and adaptation, plant-environment interactions, and plant-pathogen interactions. Each module will include video discussions with a research scientist; images and animations that elucidate the science; and related lessons developed by science educators.

The first module's release is scheduled for December 2007. This initial release will reach 2,000 students across the country. Modules 2-4 will go live between May and December 2008. This project will track the number of hits to the website as well as unique visitors. Project evaluation will compare student mastery of plant science and genetics concepts between those who do and do not use the modules. All results will be shared at ASPB events, other meetings and submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Dolan explains, "The GAP award will allow PREP to reach an entirely new audience of high school students, their teachers, and plant scientists. Since PREP's focus to date has been on establishing research collaborations among students, teachers, and scientists with a focus on investigating gene function in Arabidopsis, we haven't been able to involve students or teachers beyond our geographic region or the vast number of scientists who have related expertise but don't study this model plant."

Of course, using the appealing flash animation technology will attract the interest of many students, educators and researchers. Beyond the wider geographic access to this content, Dolan and Lally expect the modules will encourage plant scientists to serve as role models to teachers and students as well as invite even more experts with cutting-edge science to share their work.
ASPB, headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, was founded in 1924 as the American Society of Plant Physiologists. This professional society has a membership of 5,000 plant scientists from the United States and more than 50 other nations. ASPB publishes two of the most widely cited plant science journals in the world: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology.

Erin Dolan

David Lally

Brian Hyps
301.251.0560 ext 114

Katie Engen
301.251.0560 ext 116

American Society of Plant Biologists

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