Bringing science to life
CALS life scientists are at the forefront in this era of biology.
It’s an exciting time in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a time when researchers are rapidly advancing our understanding of plants, animals, people and the world they live in – and a time when this knowledge is generating innovative solutions to some of the greatest challenges that face our state, nation and world.
Many of these solutions start with the life sciences – the disciplines that focus on such questions as what makes a flower grow, how bacteria develop resistance and what happens when people make changes in the natural world.
In CALS, life scientists work mainly in six departments — Biology, Genetics, Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Microbiology, Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, and Plant Biology. Some whose expertise lies in those disciplines are housed in what we refer to as the agricultural departments, working side-by-side with applied scientists who find ways to put discoveries to work for a robust economy, a sound environment and an improved quality of life.
CALS’ life science researchers pursue diverse subjects: They are at the forefront of activities that give us a better understanding of human aging and aggression, obesity and metabolism. They are generating the knowledge that could lead to vaccines against illnesses as diverse as Salmonella poisoning and HIV. And they are learning more about the impact people have on the natural world – and how to protect and enhance the environment upon which we all depend.
They are also helping raise the next generation of scientists by getting young people involved in hands-on biodiversity studies. They are bringing their world-class expertise to the classroom as they teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students who go into such fields as government and private industry research, human and veterinary medicine, fisheries and wildlife management – and so much more.
Here we bring you the stories of a few of our life sciences faculty members, along with a graduate of our life sciences curricula. These scientists are studying how microbes break down spilled fuels and finding ways to develop cleaner-burning alternatives to the world’s diminishing supply of petroleum. They are looking at the effects of hormone-disrupting compounds. They are finding new ways to make vaccines and spinning off the kinds of companies – and jobs – that will bring these vaccines to market. And they are racing to help protect and enhance the food supply.
Together, they are bringing science to life – and, along the way, making the world a better place:
- Designing jet fuels of the future: Heike Sederoff and Amy Grunden look to extremophile genes to enhance oil production in marine algae and an oilseed crop.
- Cleaning up fuels of the past: The research of microbiologist Michael Hyman sheds light on better ways to clean fuel components from the environment.
- A two-way street: CALS life sciences programs enhance government research efforts — and vice versa, says EPA branch chief Dr. Vickie Wilson.
- Thoroughly modern maladies: Neurobiologist Heather Patisaul studies the reproductive effects of manmade chemicals.
- Taking a bite out of mosquito-borne viruses: The discovery by Dennis Brown and Racquel Hernandez has spawned a company creating vaccines against global health threats.
- Solving molecular mysteries: Dr. Linda Hanley-Bowdoin focuses on tiny subviral particles to address big food production problems.
–Dee ShoreFrom Issue: Winter 2012 Category: Features, Perspectives