December 22, 2003

Projects ranging from plant and insect genetics to natural products innovation are making 2003 a banner one for National Science Foundation (NSF) research dollars awarded to the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture.  NSF is the premier federal agency that supports both basic and applied scientific and engineering research. 

NSF grants during the last 12 months to UK agriculture total more than $5 million, the latest being a $1.7 million “Project 2010” award for plant genomic research. 

“This grant to Art Hunt in our agronomy department is the latest and largest in a series of recent grants from NSF,” said Scott Smith, dean of UK’s College of Agriculture. “Such success is indicative of the world-class plant biology research being conducted right here at UK.”

The award is for four years, and began in September.  It’s part of an international effort to understand the function of the 25,000 genes of the model plant Arabidopsis.

“This grant not only enables the furthering of important global efforts in plant research, it also provides an outstanding learning experience for the students who assist our faculty researchers in the lab, and ultimately benefits Kentucky’s economy,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research in the College of Agriculture.

The Project 2010 grant is the latest in a long list of NSF awards to the College of Agriculture for genetic and genomic research. 

The list includes a recent NSF “Tree of Life Program” grant of $1.3 million awarded to UK’s entomology department to examine relationships among a group of insects that includes bees, wasps and ants; $793,000 to plant pathology for examining chromosomes and reproduction in fungi; $228,000 to agronomy for studying regulation and transport of plant sterols; $308,000 to plant pathology for researching plant virus replication and evolution; and $176,000 to agronomy for investigating metabolism of glandular cells on the tips of leaf hairs.

“It is terrific to see UK receiving such substantial support from the National Science Foundation,” said Wendy Baldwin, UK executive vice-president for research.  “Support from NSF is especially valuable because it brings heightened national attention to the excellent work we are doing at UK.”

An NSF grant to the College of Agriculture for $600,000 in January already has launched several new initiatives in natural products commercialization research, partnerships and marketing.

“The natural products grant is producing some exciting progress in developing new Kentucky products that are naturally-derived from plants or animals, such as medicines or food flavorings,” said Smith. “In fact, the College sponsored its very first statewide conference on natural products innovation for entrepreneurs and scientists this fall.”


Sources: Scott Smith, 859-257-4772; Nancy Cox, 859-257-3333