By Madison Hodge ('21), marketing and communications intern
Professors Jin-Rong Xu, professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University, and Joe Flaherty, professor of biology at Coker College, received a $500,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a three-year project that began in December 2018. The collaboration allows Coker students to travel to Purdue and access Purdue’s research facilities for the next three summers.
Each summer, a student from Coker will travel to Purdue and participate in a research project, working closely with graduate students and Dr. Xu. Upon returning, they will continue to work in Dr. Flaherty's lab, sharing knowledge gained with additional Coker students.
Students will participate in various proposed experiments at both Purdue and at Coker many of which involve generating and characterizing knockout mutants of genes that may be involved in ascosporogenesis and RNA editing mechanisms. Results from this study will help scientists better understand the functions and mechanisms of RNA editing in Fusarium graminearum and possibly other plant pathogenic fungi.
The grant will support graduate students at Purdue and undergraduate students at Coker, as well as the development of an annual, weeklong summer workshop for South Carolina high school teachers. The workshop will facilitate dissemination of major discoveries made by the project, as well as provide much-needed professional development opportunities for science teachers to gain hands-on experience in molecular biology research. Four to five teachers will be selected to participate and each will receive a stipend to offset travel and associated costs.
Dr. Flaherty is currently an elected member of the governing board of the Council of Undergraduate Research and is a senior editor for the Journal of Applied Microbiology (Wiley). He is the lead PI of a current NSF S-STEM Track III project (1742366) and a co-PI of the current NSF IOS project (1758434) described above.