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|SOUTHEASTERN TO RECEIVE $473,678 IN BOARD OF REGENTS GRANTS
HAMMOND -- Southeastern Louisiana
University will receive almost a half million dollars – $473,678 – in grants
from the Louisiana Board of Regents for instructional equipment and scientific
and industrial research.
In the research and development/industrial
ties category, the university had a higher percentage of their proposals
funded than any other state institution, said Emily Bond, director of the
Office of Sponsored Research and Grants.
Bond said that only four institutions
– Louisiana State University’s main campus, LSU’s agriculture center, the
University of New Orleans and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette – received
more BOR grant money than Southeastern.
“However, looking at the numbers
of grant proposals submitted and the numbers actually funded,” she said,
“we find that Southeastern’s percentage – 38 percent – was higher than
these four universities. Also, in the research category, both of our funded
proposals were ranked number one. That was a job well done.”
Bond said biology professors
Kyle Piller and Volker Stiller received $133,692 and $112,978, respectively,
while chemistry professor Randolph Belter’s award of $135,000 was the university’s
first in the “Industrial Ties” category. A total of 52 of the 226 grant
proposals were funded statewide.
Belter will partner with the
engineering firm Cox-Walker & Associates to develop a chemical process
for manufacturing fluorochemicals from light petroleum products. The fluorochemicals
are typically used as refrigerants, foam blowing agents and fire-supressants.
In the undergraduate enhancement
category, visual arts professors Gary Keown and John Valentino were awarded
$92,000 for equipment to expand the digital technology course offerings.
Nursing professor Ann Carruth received $8,000 for a bone scanner that will
allow the School of Nursing to add osteoporosis screening to its health
Piller plans to examine the phenomenon
of “adaptive radiation,” when multiple species evolve in a relatively “short”
amount of time – tens of thousands of years as compared to hundreds of
thousands or even millions of years evolution usually takes. To carry out
his studies, he will travel to central Mexico to collect the 23 species
of silverside fishes.
“From an economic viewpoint,
this group of fishes is an important food source for the people of the
region,” Piller said. He said the fishes are also interesting from the
standpoint of ecology and evolution because they range from tiny plankton
eaters to foot-long predators with as many as 12 different species sometimes
inhabiting the same lake.
In his Southeastern lab, Piller
and his graduate assistant will sequence DNA from all of the specifies
to examine their evolutionary relationships and to determine how such a
variety of morphologically and tropically diverse species have developed
in such a short amount of time.
Stiller’s research proposal focuses
on the development of strains of rice which can be highly productive in
areas of the world subject to frequent drought. The biologist has discovered
a new mechanism for refilling water in rice leaves, and has developed a
technique to detect embolisms that can develop in a plant’s water conducting
tissue – xylem – when water supply is restricted. Normally, he said, plants
combat xylem embolism by using “nightly root-pressure” to compress and
flush out air bubbles. At least one rice variety, however, reverses xylem
embolism with the novel refilling mechanism.
He will use several varieties
of rice to examine this “novel refilling mechanism.” Researchers, he said,
“have no idea how this refilling mechanism works. Right now we are just
beginning to study in which plants it can occur.”
Comparing several species of
rice, Stiller will attempt to discover whether plants that lack the ability
to generate sufficient root-pressure use the novel refiling mechanism to
compensate. He will also eye the nature of the novel refiling method.
“If we can answer the basic questions
and find the genetic basis for the novel refilling mechanism, it would
have far-reaching implications for the field of plant water relations as
a whole,” Stiller said. “It would also lead to a breakthrough in plant
breeding with respect to plant growth and yield in arid environments and
under restricted water supply.”