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2009 ASPB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship award announcement

SURF fellowships assist promising undergraduate students with meaningful research in plant biology early in their college careers. Ideally, students should conduct their SURF-funded research the summer following their second year. Exceptionally well-prepared first-year students and third-year students who provide evidence of a strong commitment to plant biology also are considered. SURF students must work with a mentor who is an ASPB member.

The ASPB SURF Committee would like to thank all the students and mentors who applied to the 2009 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. The applications were outstanding, making it difficult to choose only 15 fellowship awardees. These 15 awardees will complete 10 consecutive weeks of SURF research and present their results at Plant Biology July 31-August 4, 2010 in Montral, Canada.

Congratulations to the following 2009 SURF Recipients and Honorable Mentions:



Kevin Cooper, Wake Forest University Mentor: Gloria Muday
Auxin-Induced Flavonoid Gene Expression and Root Architecture

I am both honored and excited to receive this fellowship and greatly look forward to commencing my research project this summer. My project primarily involves the quantification of flavonoid gene expression through quantitative Real Time PCR (qRT-PCR). I look forward to presenting my results and discussing the discoveries of fellow researchers at Plant Biology 2010. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Gloria Muday, Dr. Daniel Lewis, and all the other members of the Muday lab for their continued support.

Ying Goh, University of Leeds Mentor: Jurgen Denecke
Characterization of targeting signals and pathways controlling ER import sites in plants.

I am extremely excited about receiving the ASPB SURF! Having been exposed to plant science early in my degree I am thrilled that I am getting a chance to conduct research in a field I would like to further explore. I look forward to my summer research experience and would like to thank ASPB very much for this opportunity.

Sharon Holifield, University of Arkansas Mentor: Ken Korth
The role of glyoxalase I in abiotic stress tolerance of soybean, Glycine max.

I am more than excited about being able to do this summer research project. This is an excellent opportunity for me to get my hands "dirty" in plant biology lab work. I am also looking forward to seeing the research completed by my peers in Montreal next summer. I would like to give a big thanks to Dr. Korth, Dr. Wolf and Dr. Miller for their encouragement and support.

Emily Lin, University of Maryland Mentor: Ganesh Sriram
Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Derivatization for Metabolic Flux Analysis

I am really excited to receive the ASPB SURF award. First, I thank ASPB for this fellowship to continue my research in metabolic engineering. My project involves improving the detection of isotopically labeled plant metabolites by mass spectrometry. This will provide important insights toward quantifying metabolic fluxes in plants. I am looking forward to a productive summer and I am sure that I will learn a lot from completing this research project.

Dianne Pater, University of New Mexico Mentor: David Hanson
Isotopic Signature of Photorespiration

Thank you, ASPB, for supporting undergraduate researchers. It is so exciting to not only become a member of ASPB, but also to have the opportunity to do some really cool research about photorespiration and to present my findings alongside my peers at the conference in Montreal. I would like to thank my colleague, Kathleen Chuchra-Zbytniuk and the other members of our lab for their support and ideas. And my heartfelt gratitude to my mentor, Dr. David Hanson, for his encouragement and guidance in my development as a scientist, and for being my inspiration for studying plant biology.

Evan Pratt, Michigan State University Mentor: Susanne Hoffmann-Benning
Characterization of Novel Chloroplast Transporters in the C4 PlantMaize

It is very exciting to be able to continue my research over the summer through SURF. I would like to thank Dr. Hoffmann-Benning for getting me started in plant research and guiding me through the SURF application process. I look forward to learning much more from my research, as well presenting my findings in Montreal at the annual ASPB meeting in 2010.

David Seung, University of Sydney Mentor: Jan Marc
The interaction of abscisic acid and phospholipase D mediated pathways in environmental stress signaling: The role of the cytoskeleton

It is with great honor and excitement that I accept this award. I would like to thank my supervisor Dr. Jan Marc for his encouragement and the ASPB for supporting plant biology education, even at the international level. I am sure this is going to be an invaluable experience and I look forward to embarking on my project!

Shelley Sianta, Colorado State University Mentor: Patricia Bedinger
Analysis of an Emerging Lineage of Wild Tomato

I can't express how grateful and excited I am to be a SURF recipient. My project is evaluating a possible diverging lineage of a marginal population of the wild tomato species, Solanum habrochaites. I will be evaluating trends of reproductive isolation between the marginal population and a central, outcrossing population, and possible genes involved. I can't wait to get my tomatoes out in the field and start my crosses!

Liza Smith, University of Wollongong Mentor: Sharon Robinson
Does UV radiation induce screening compounds in Antarctic Bryophytes?

I am very honored to be a SURF recipient in 2009, and to have the privilege of working under A/P Sharon Robinson. My project will involve culturing moss under different radiation levels, simulating current elevated UV conditions in Antarctica. I'm grateful and excited to have to opportunity to contribute to this growing body of research. Through the fellowship, I anticipate that I will gain invaluable research experience, giving me a foundation in plant biology on which to base a future career in conservation.

Alaina Willet, University of Tennessee Mentor: Elena Shpak
Research of Arabidopsis plant to Find New Components of ERECTA Signaling Pathway through EMS Screen for Mutants

This is a huge honor to be recognized by ASPB. I am looking forward to continuing my research with plants this summer through this wonderful opportunity as well as attending the 2010 conference! I would also like to thank Dr. Elena Shpak for her guidance and encouragement.


Hanwen Bai, Ohio Wesleyan University Mentor: Chris Wolverton
The effects of phosphate availability on root architecture and gravity responsiveness in Arabidopsis

I'm eager to carry out the work in my proposal and I'm very grateful to ASPB for the opportunity to spend the summer in a lab. I look forward to presenting my work in Montreal next summer.

Jacquelyn Harth, The College of New Jersey Mentor: Janet Morrison
Smut fungus infection of the perennial grass Andropogon virginicus

I am thrilled to have been awarded an ASPB SURF for 2009. Already my undergraduate research experience has been extremely rewarding and I cannot wait to continue my research this summer. I would like to thank the ASPB for providing me with the opportunity to continue towards my goal of a career in plant ecology.

Annie Jeong, Barnard College Mentor: Kristen Shepard
Analysis of the Spatial Orientation of Chimeric and Male Floral Organs in Spergularia Marina

I am a junior at Barnard College, majoring in Biology, with a Chemistry minor. This is my first year working with SURF, but am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my research with the plant, Spergularia marina. I plan to go to get my doctorate in either plant biology or biotechnology, where I can continue to do research and refine my knowledge of the plants that share our environment.

Starr Matsushita, University of Puget Sound Mentor: Andreas Madlung
A role for aneuploidy as a means for hybrid speciation in the genus Arabidopsis

I am incredibly happy to receive such a prestigious fellowship for the summer of 2009. I extend a warm thanks to the ASPB SURF committee and my research advisor Dr. Andreas Madlung for their wonderful contribution to my research. My interest in plant biology began last summer when I started studying the possible effects of aneuploidy on the evolution of an Arabidopsis allopolyploid, and was able to find some extremely interesting results. Thanks to the ASPB-SURF, this summer, I will be able to continue this fascinating exploration into the inner workings of the Arabidopsis genome and its response to aneuploid-induced stress. I am also excited to meet all of the other recipients of this fellowship and to learn about the most recent advances in plant biological research at the ASPB conference in 2010!



Chen Gu, Macalester College Mentor: William Gray
Characterization of the Cellular Targets of the SAUR19 protein in Arabidopsis thaliana

As a sophomore from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, I started my adventure in plant biology in the summer of 2008, when I was first exposed to yeast hybrid systems. The project titled above is going to use a reverse 2-hybrid system to screen for mutated SAUR19 proteins that no longer interact with a known protein interactor. This project can both elucidate the domains of the SAUR19 protein that are critical for its interaction, and show whether the aforementioned interaction is responsible for SAUR19's functionality.

Eric Johnson, University of Massachusetts Amherst Mentor: Alice Cheung
Probing Intracellular Hydrogen Peroxide Condition in Wild type and Mutants Defective in Stress-signaling

I hope to finish up my current research by the end of my senior year. This will help to characterize the pathways in plants that utilize or react to reactive oxygen species. My longer term goal is to pursue an MD/PhD.

David Lee, University of California Berkeley Mentor: Sheila McCormick
Functional analysis of two Arabidopsis AGC kinases during polarized growth of pollen tubes

Working with Professor Sheila McCormick and Postdoctoral fellow Yan Zhang on the polarized growth of pollen tubes in Arabidopsis, has taught me the dedication necessary to continue in research. This project continues to explore an aspect of the AGC kinase family. By working with such great people, I have gained a solidified interest in plant biology.


David Valenta, Frostburg State University Mentor: David Puthoff
The Transformation of Micro-Tom Tomatoes with Hessian Fly Responsive Genes

Through my application for the SURF grant, I learned a lot about grant writing and the many elements of writing a research proposal. Although I did not receive the award, I plan to finish my research project, which involves transforming tomato plants with genes from wheat, with the expectation that they will confer resistance to whiteflies. I hope to continue my research experience in dental school. I want to thank Dr. David Puthoff for all his hard work on the project as well as the rest of the excellent faculty from the Frostburg State Biology Department.


Contact: Katie Engen
American Society of Plant Biologists

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