Plant Breeding Initiative Kicks Off with New Space at BTI
BTI faculty and staff celebrated the launch of the new GOBii project room on June 26.
The BTI building maintenance staff created a state-of-the art bioinformatics facility in a former laboratory space. The GOBii project room will house researchers working on the Genomic and Open source Breeding Informatics Initiative, and will be used as a classroom for visiting scientists from project partners to receive training on bioinformatics tools.
“I am immensely excited about the activities that will take place in the space in the years to come. It was no small effort on the part of many to make this a reality and I’m grateful to all who participated as well as our supporters at Cornell University and the Gates Foundation,” said BTI President David Stern.
BTI received $1.8 million to work on the Cornell-led project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This initative, led by Susan McCouch of Cornell, aims to accelerate the breeding of five world staple crops using genomic information.
In her speech at the opening, McCouch explained that her group was asked to put together “a set of software tools and to build capacity so that plant breeders in the public sector can start to use genomic selection to improve staple food crops in the developing world. It’s a global mandate that targets five different crop species and brings together institutions on four different continents.”
BTI Associate Professor Lukas Mueller is a collaborator on the project and will work with colleagues at Cornell, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and three CGIAR research centers in India, Mexico and the Philippines.
“It’s sad to convert a lab to an office, but as you know, labs are creative spaces and I hope that a little bit of that creativity will transfer over to this environment,” said Lukas Mueller. “I hope that a lot of good things will come out of here.”
A team composed of facilities manager Don Slocum, senior building mechanics Jeff Brockway and David MacDonald, building mechanic Charlie Paucke and IT support specialist Dale Barrows converted the area from wet lab space to computer work stations. MacDonald will retire from BTI in August after 10 years of service. Brockway joined the staff in December 2014.
As part of the transformation, the building maintenance staff repurposed the benches in another laboratory and replaced them with desks and conference tables. They installed new, energy-efficient LED lighting and placed a window into the hallway to bring in outdoor light. To combat the heat put off by the computers, the room has its own air conditioner and air handling system. They also exchanged the old tile for laminate flooring and added walls to make a video conferencing room and two additional office spaces.
The GOBii computer room will house three permanent staff but has space for bioinformatics trainings and visiting scientists.
The mechanical staff began working on the room in early 2015 and completed the project ahead of schedule. The room’s first inhabitants will start arriving in late summer.