N.C. program immerses students in science
An unprecedented partnership of academic and industry organizations at the North Carolina Research Campus has launched a groundbreaking $1.5 million program to engage college students from across the state in a first-of-its-kind education and research endeavor.
Called the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP), the program teams up university scientists, industry leaders and college students who together will explore plant pathways to answer why and how plants, like fruits and vegetables, benefit human health. P2EP aims to foster scientific discoveries, provide educational opportunities and create a vast knowledge base of plant pathways research.
The multi-institutional project is fueled by academic partners at the N.C. Research Campus, including N.C. State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Bioinformatics Services Division and UNC General Administration, along with industry leaders from the David H. Murdock Research Institute, Dole Nutrition Research Laboratory, General Mills and the N.C. Research Campus.
“The Plant Pathways Elucidation Project is a prime example of the power of the N.C. Research Campus,” said Michael Todd, executive director of the N.C. Research Campus. “The cutting-edge research and educational opportunities are a terrific value for the UNC system and private campus partners, and demonstrates a novel, collaborative research model that will improve human health.”
The program kicks off with 29 students, comprised of graduate students and undergraduate interns representing 10 N.C. colleges and universities. Project leaders have developed a unique model; placing Ph.D. candidates in charge of six lab teams with undergrads divvied up as research staff.
Each of the six student labs conducts functional genome sequence assembly in tandem with plant pathways research for specific food crops, like blueberries, broccoli, oats and strawberries. The labs also mine data that will generate a research knowledge base. Project leaders and faculty from the partnering organizations collaborate with the lab teams and oversee the progress.
UNC General Administration provided support to launch the effort, along with Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, Duke Energy Foundation, Turner Construction and educational institutions including Catawba College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
“This project represents the way big science can solve big problems for society – collaborations across disciplines involving industry and academia,” said Dr. Chris Brown, vice president for research and graduate education with the University of North Carolina General Administration. “We look forward to the success of P2EP and other projects like it at the N.C. Research Campus.”