We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2023 Triad funded PGS Mini-grant Program. Congratulations to all the awardees and thanks to all the participants!

Collage of Triad award winners

The committee of PGS members along with a faculty advisor reviewed a total of 8 proposals and have selected 4 projects for funding.

Boaz Negin a post doc in the Jander lab was awarded funding for a project to study how the production of different pigments in plants (flowers in this case) effect the fitness of the plants and their interactions with insects. The red, pink, and purple colors we often see in flowers is usually caused by pigments called anthocyanins. In this project Boaz is working to understand how a less common pigment, betalains produce similar pigmentation. These pigments are found in Caryophyllales – a broad group of plants that includes cacti and carnations.

Jacob Suissa a post doc in the Li lab was awarded funding for a project aimed at determining the genetic toolkit underlying nectary development – the nectar secreting organ in a plant. In this case he is specifically working with ferns that secrete nectar from parts of the leaves. Ferns are the most primitive plants possessing nectaries.

Ning Zhang a post doc in the Martin lab was awarded funding to study a newly discovered bacterial effector. Effectors are proteins produced by bacterial pathogens of plants. Normally these proteins improve the bacteria’s ability to multiply and cause enhanced disease. In this particular case the effector actually renders the pathogen unable to cause disease on the plants (tomatoes) since it promotes an immune response. This study aims to learn more about this effector and perhaps lead to some insight into how we might use these proteins like these to protect plants from pathogens.

Elise Tomaszewski a graduate student (Plant Breeding and Genetics) in the Van Eck lab was awarded funding for a searching for the protein(s) involved with the abscission zone of Ground Cherry. This “zone” is what is responsible for the fruit drop that makes this flavorful and nutritious fruit so difficult to manage as a crop since all the fruits fall to the ground, and hence the name Ground Cherry. The goal eventually would be to engineer a plant that holds its fruits on the plant till they can be harvested. Then I guess maybe they will need to come up with a new name for the plant!

Thanks to all the participants!