N.C. program immerses students in science
With its dynamic composition of academic and industry partners, in addition to state-of-the-art scientific facilities and instrumentation, the program offers opportunities to students from institutions that may not otherwise be able to provide these resources. As such, P2EP is about developing students as well as advancing science, according to Clyde Higgs, vice president for business development at the N.C. Research Campus and part of the P2EP leadership team.
“We’re cultivating the scientists of tomorrow,” said Higgs. “We’re helping participants gain research experience in a multidisciplinary, collaborative environment – not just ordinary office life, but one-of-a-kind scientific research opportunities – which better prepares the students for successful careers.”
“This project is already producing terabytes of data and requires bioinformatics expertise and high performance computing to do the analysis that will lead to new and exciting discoveries,” said Dr. Cory Brouwer, director of UNC Charlotte’s Bioinformatics Research Services Division and part of the P2EP leadership team. “Many people still ask what bioinformatics is, but essentially it’s the use of computers to help solve biological problems.”
The program will utilize a knowledge base to organize and analyze the extensive amounts of data the program will generate.
When queried, a traditional web search engine – like Google or Yahoo! – provides a list of sources. A knowledge base goes a step further by providing direct answers, such as established plant pathways data versus websites that may or may not provide the desired information. But generating a knowledge base dedicated to plant pathways research from around the world first requires compiling the data to populate it, said Brouwer, who is coordinating this portion of the program.
“A problem for researchers today is that they’re having to do generic web searches to compile existing research literature, which can take weeks,” said Brouwer. “Our goal is to assemble plant pathways research in a knowledge base so researchers can find information quickly and focus on the science. With the P2EP program, we’re concentrating the expertise and resources that already exist at the N.C. Research Campus, along with a terrific crop of science students, to gather and organize the data.”
“The Plant Pathways Elucidation Project is the type of collaborative effort that the N.C. Research Campus was built to cultivate,” said Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Plants for Human Health Institute director and part of the P2EP leadership team. “This is a golden opportunity; we’re tackling a series of questions that have been of great importance throughout the world since the beginning of plant sciences.”