For UF Genetics Institute, summer brings awards, research breakthroughs

by Ellison Langford

The UF Genetics Institute has had a busy summer, with many faculty accomplishments worth noting.

geneticsJianping Wang, assistant professor in the department of agronomy, received a North America Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Educator Award at the June 2016 conference. Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Al Wysocki said Wang was nominated because of her commitment to her students and teaching.

Ana Conesa, professor of microbiology and cell science, released a bioinformatics software that detects microRNA binding elements in long non-coding RNA sequences. The software, called “SpongeScan” will help researchers better understand the role of novel genes for which the function is still unknown, Conesa said. It is available online.

UFGI member and Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research Robert Ferl is the 2016 recipient of the Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award. The honor is bestowed upon a member of the aerospace exploration community who embodies the spirit and innovation exemplified by physician John Jeffries, the first person to use aeronautical technology to conduct a scientific study.

Ferl researches how plant growth is affected by space flight. He has been conducting experiments through NASA, with the support of research partner and UFGI member Anna-Lisa Paul, for 20 years.

Wildred Vermerris, associate professor of microbiology and cell science, has identified two regions of the sorghum genome that might could enhance the plant’s resistance to the anthracnose disease. Sorghum does not grow well in the Southeast, because the hot, humid climate is ideal for fungus that causes anthracnose. The finding would be key for expanding sorghum cultivation in the Southeast.

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