Inside Iowa State
September 24, 1999
Regents approve huge plant sciences initiative
Iowa State will develop a $400 million Plant Sciences Institute under plans approved last week by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.
President Martin Jischke, in outlining plans for the institute, called it "as bold an initiative as our university has undertaken in a very long time."
"We are building a very strong base here in areas related to the plant sciences," he added.
As proposed, the institute will serve as an umbrella over eight centers, initially, that focus on different areas of the plant sciences. The work of the institute will involve faculty and other researchers from about a dozen departments, primarily in the colleges of Agriculture, Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Two existing centers administered by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station -- the Seed Science Center and the Center for Crops Utilization Research -- become part of the institute. The six new centers are in:
- Bioinformatics and biological statistics
- Designer crops
- Plant responses to environmental stresses
- Plant breeding
- Plant genomics
- Plant transformation and gene expression
Colin Scanes, executive associate dean of the College of Agriculture, will serve as interim director of the institute until a national search can be completed. He will oversee the operations of the institute, recruitment and hiring of new faculty and relations with external organizations.
The vision for the institute, Scanes said, is "to bring Iowa State to the point where it is undoubtedly one of the world's strongest intellectual centers for plant sciences."
The concept of the institute has been widely embraced in a state struggling with recent agriculture economic woes. Gov. Tom Vilsack and state legislators supported the institute with an allocation last spring of $2.25 million. Iowa State is using those funds to hire faculty and renovate research facilities.
Iowa State's proposal calls for an investment of nearly $400 million over the next decade. A quarter of that would be taxpayer money allocated by the state, a quarter from private fund raising and the remaining half from increased sponsored funding from government, foundations and industry.
While several other large-scale plant sciences initiatives are under way elsewhere in the world, Jischke said Iowa is a natural to support this kind of work because of the climate, soil, raw materials, knowledge base and political climate here.
In outlining plans for the institute during his fall convocation address last month, Jischke said, "What we are dealing with here is extraordinarily exciting science. The science itself is compelling, but its applications are absolutely huge."
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