June 23, 2011

First round of campus grants awarded to interdisciplinary teams

by Erin Rosacker

Three research teams received the Plant Sciences Institute's (PSI) inaugural "team enabling" grants this spring -- one of three competitive grant programs PSI is offering to campus researchers. The grants are designed to bring researchers from interdisciplinary fields together to address grand challenges involving plant sciences.

PSI interim director Bill Beavis said the goal of the team enabling grants is to strengthen research teams that can go on to secure external grants, such as Science and Technology Center grants offered by the National Science Foundation. He said the teams will strive to become self-sufficient, much like PSI's Center for Crops Utilization Research and Seed Science Center, which acquire $5 to $10 million in extramural funding each year.

Based on reviews from external scientists, the winning proposals were awarded grants of about $250,000 each, with possible renewals for up to four years. The areas of research (and team leaders) include:

  • Chemical diversity in the plant biosphere (Basil Nikolau, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology)
  • Healthy carbohydrates (Diane Birt, food science and human nutrition)
  • Virus-insect interactions (Bryony Bonning, entomology)

Other PSI grants

In addition to the team enabling grants, Beavis said PSI also funds innovative grants and team building grants. Innovative grants are for small interdisciplinary teams -- two or three researchers. Grant awards range from $50,000 to $60,000 and are renewable for one additional year.

The team building grants provide incentive funds to help launch new working relationships.

"These programs encourage our collaborative culture on campus to produce scientific discoveries and technological innovations needed for solutions to grand challenges in human and animal health and production of food and fuel," Beavis said.