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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

MAPS Researcher receives NSF Early Career Investigator Award in Plant Genome Research

Dr. Sanzhen Liu
    Sanzhen Liu, a research team member on theMicrobiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS) project and an assistant professor in the plant pathology department at Kansas State University (KSU), has received a four-year 2.4 million dollar NSF Early Career Investigator Award in Plant Genome Research. The title of the research project is Under the Hood: The Genetic Components of Maize Transformation, (NSF IOS ECA-PGR Award #1741090). Liu will be collaborating with Sunghun Park, professor of horticulture and natural resources at KSU, Frank White from the University of Florida, Myeong-Je Cho from the University of California-Berkeley, and Hairong Wei from Michigan Technological University. The study seeks to "understand the genetic basis underlying the ability of plant tissues to regenerate into whole plants."
      Specifically, Liu and his team will investigate the genome engineering of maize. They selected maize because it is one of the highest-yielding cereal crops in the world that faces challenges of dramatic yield increases, "particularly under highly variable climates and disease pressures." The researchers plan to sequence the genome of an amenable maize tissue culture to identify the genetic elements that regulate culture ability. The group will develop and apply novel approaches in order to decode the complex maize genome.  Specifically, the team will utilize a plant-bacterium delivery system that enables "plants to gain benefits from the bacterium."  Then, a "designable bacterial system specifically interacting with genes of interest in the maize genome will be utilized to study gene function and manipulate cell development."
    This investigation will also provide training in genetics and computation as well as large data education for students and post docs involved in the project. In addition, it "will collaborate with the Kansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation to encourage involvement of historically underrepresented students in STEM fields."