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Department News

Dorothy Allard and Gabriel Martin-Scruce
Assistant Curator and Digital Herbarium Coordinator Dorothy Allard and undergraduate student herbarium assistant Gabriel Martin-Scruce pose with some herbarium specimens upon completion of the digitization project

All done but the mopping up: Pringle Herbarium completes the digitization of its plant and fungi collections

A project begun in 2011 in Torrey Hall is about to be completed. When finished, nearly the entire plant collection of the Pringle Herbarium will be accessible online.

It all started with a project, funded by the Andrew J. Mellon Foundation, to digitize type specimens. Types are among the most important specimens in the collection, since they represent the actual plants from which species are newly named and described. These specimens were painstakingly scanned and their labels databased, and then the images and data were uploaded to the JSTOR Global Plants website, where they are available for researchers to use (plants.jstor.org).

This initial success paved the way for the awarding of multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and the USDA State Agricultural Experiment Stations that allowed us to pursue the digitization of the rest of the collection: bryophytes, lichens, algae, fungi, and vascular plants from all over the world.

Students finish up digitization work
Undergraduate students Miranda Moore, Lauren Kerwien, and Conor Heffer all worked on digitizing specimens for the Pringle Herbarium (photo credit David Barrington)

The August 2017 fire in Torrey temporarily slowed, but did not stop, progress. Operations were moved to Jeffords Hall where the plant collections are now also housed, and digitization was underway again before the start of the Fall semester.

In all, when the work is complete, online researchers will have access to over 285,000 specimens. Only the microfungi and non-North American bryophytes and lichens were not covered under the grants and have not been digitized. Under the supervision of Dr. Dorothy J. Allard, who has managed the project from the start, over 20 students, volunteers, and staff have contributed to this massive effort. The data are searchable, and the data and images of the specimens may be accessed in several different locations online. The main site for access to the data is www.idigbio.org.

Abby van den Berg and Tim Perkins won a major grant

Abby van den Berg won a major grant from USDA NIFA for a project through the Proctor Maple Research Center to remove barriers that limit transition from conventional to organic maple syrup production. Tim Perkins is serving as co-PI on the project. Details are at https://nifa.usda.gov/press-release/usda-announces-214-million-organic-research-and-extension-programs

Meghan McKeown Receives NACTA Teaching Award

Meghan McKeown, PhD student in the Preston lab, was honored with a Graduate Student Teaching Award from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA). Tom Vogelmann surprised her with a presentation of the award at our Weekly Marvin Seminar (pictured right).

Susan Fawcett Receives the Roberto Fabri Fialho Award

Susan Fawcett, PhD student in the Barrington lab, was chosen by the UVM Graduate Student Senate (GSS) to receive the Roberto Fabri Fialho Award to support her research in ecology and evolution. Congratulations, Susan!

Laura Hill Honored by EPA

The New England Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected Dr. Laura Hill to receive an Environmental Merit Award in recognition of her exceptional work and commitment to the environment. EPA’s Environmental Merit Award is an annual award that recognizes outstanding environmental advocates who have made significant contributions toward preserving and protecting our natural resources. Congratulations to Plant Biology faculty member Laura Hill!

Christine Ondzighi-Assoume Profiled in The Plant Cell

Former Postdoc in the Harris Lab, Christine Ondzighi-Assoume, was profiled in The Plant Cell, where she recently published her paper Environmental Nitrate Stimulates Root Tip Abscisic Acid Accumulation via Release from Inactive Stores. Dr. Jeanne Harris and her PhD student Sanhita Chakraborty were co-authors on the paper.

profiled in The Plant Cell

Alicia Daniel Featured in Burlington Free Press

Alicia Daniel, who teaches in the Field Naturalist Graduate Program, and who is a Field Naturalist Program alum, was featured the Burlington Free Press article Burlington’s wild heart: Field naturalist Alicia Daniel.

Plant Biology graduate programs feature article

The graduate programs offered through the Plant Biology Department were featured in UVM Impact: Graduate Education and Research.

Plant Biology's newest faculty member featured in Vermont Quarterly

Learn a bit more about the newest addition to the Plant Biology Department faculty, Stephen R. Keller, in the latest edition of Vermont Quarterly.

Sanhita Chakraborty translated ASPB's My Life as a Plant into Hindi

Congratulations to Sanhita Chakraborty, PBIO grad student, for her role in translating the popular, educational coloring book My Life as a Plant put out by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) into Hindi. Sanhita collaborated with another Hindi-speaking plant scientist to translate the book, making this educational resource accessible to millions of children! Click here to take a look at My Life as a Plant in English (or one of the other 17 languages it has been translated into). See the Hindi version here.

Beck Powers wins a Genetics Student Research Award from the Botanical Society of America

Graduate student Beck Powers, in the Preston lab, has been awarded a Genetics Student Research Award from the Botanical Society of America. Her proposal is titled "Genetic building blocks in the evolution of sympetaly: a candidate gene approach." Congratulations, Beck!

UVM Marsh Professor at Large David Richardson Visit

Dr. David Richardson, UVM James Marsh Professor at Large, was on campus for his second visit September 12-18, 2015. Dave Richardson is an ecologist specializing in tree invasions at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He and Jane Molofsky are research collaborators, and Dr. Molofsky is his host at UVM and in our Department.

Nikisha Patel's fern research in China funded by a NSF EAPSI award

Nikisha Patel, graduate student in the Barrington Lab, has won a National Science Foundation EAPSI award (East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students). This award will fund her field work and collaboration with two of our Chinese colleagues in China this summer. The award covers all transportation and in-country expenses and includes a stipend. Congratulations to Nikisha, who will use this award to conduct dissertation field research in the mountains of south-central China.

Molofsky article highlighted in the American Journal of Botany

Jane Molofsky's article, "Twice as nice? Polyploidy is a common form of speciation in plants" is currently highlighted in the American Journal of Botany.

Climate Change Research from the Beckage Lab Attracts Media Attention

Brian Beckage's new research study, "Impacts of Projected Climate Change over the Lake Champlain Basin in Vermont," published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, has attracted the attention of multiple local media outlets. This research is part of the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) Project through Vermont Epscor.

Read the article by UVM journalist Joshua Brown.

View the story on ABC news.

UVM Marsh Professor at Large David Richardson Visit

Dr. David Richardson is a UVM James Marsh Professor at Large, and he'll be on campus for the week of April 28 through May 2. Dave Richardson is an ecologist specializing in tree invasions at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He and Jane Molofsky are research collaborators, and Dr. Molofsky will be hosting him in our Department. All are welcome to join us in welcoming Dr. Richardson at a reception on Monday, April 28, 4-5pm in room Jeffords 326. He will give the Plant Biology Department Marvin Seminar on Thursday, May 1, at 4pm in room Jeffords 112 (reception beforehand at 3:30 in room 107).

Microscopy images of ABA immunofluorescenceA Novel technique for locating plant hormone developed by a UVM Postdoc

by Rogelio Zimbron

A novel technique that allows for the identification and location of the plant hormone, Abscisic acid (ABA), has been developed by Dr. Christine Ondzighi, a Postdoc in the UVM Plant Biology Department. “I have shown for the first time where is ABA within plant tissues,” Dr. Ondzighi said.

Because plants do not possess a nervous system, they must be able to perceive and respond to environmental inputs in a different way: this is where ABA comes in. In biology, hormones are small molecules that are released throughout an organism by triggering changes in their development. These hormones are extremely fast acting and are released for different reasons. Some of these hormones are related to light-sensing while others respond to stresses induced by environmental inputs. Read the entire article here.

Laura Hill Bermingham wins the 2014 Carrigan Award

Each year, the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences chooses one outstanding instructor to receive the Joseph E. Carrigan Award for Excellence in Teaching and Undergraduate Eduction. This year's award is going to Plant Biology Lecturer Laura Hill Bermingham. Dr. Hill Bermingham has distinguished herself as a stellar instructor in the classroom and an innovator in pedagogical techniques. She includes interactive teaching methods in all of her courses, including Just-in-Time Teaching and Peer Instruction. She has become a teacher of teachers here at UVM, facilitating workshops for faculty at the Center for Teaching and Learning. Dr. Hill Bermingham is eminently deserving of this recognition for her talents and dedication in the classroom. Congratulations to our own Laura Hill Bermingham!

Terry Delaney's "Fungi" course profiled on UVM's Across the Fence (7:40 Video Clip)

The Across the Fence piece "Studying Mushrooms at UVM" was recorded during the Fall, 2013 holding of the course, when the class visited one of the local forests. Becky Gollin produced the ATF piece, which originally aired 8/15/13 (URL: http://tinyurl.com/UVMfungi). Dr. Delaney will offer "Fungi" again this summer as a CE course, and then again next fall (2014), as "Biology of Fungi" PBIO177 (4-credits).

UVM Proctor Maple Research Center Recipients of the Richard G. Haas Distinguished Service Award

Tim Perkins holding award
Dr. Timothy Perkins, Director of the Proctor Maple Research Center (center) accepts the Haas Award from Joe Polak, NAMSC Secretary/Treasurer (left) and Mike Girard, NAMSC Executive Director (right) (photo credit Eric Randall)

The North American Maple Syrup Council at its 54th Annual Meeting in Moncton, New Brunswick, presented the Richard G. Haas Distinguished Service Award to the University of Vermont, Proctor Maple Research Center of Underhill, Vermont.

This award is presented annually to a leading Maple Research Organization, Maple Research Professional or Research Alliance Partner for their work and/or contributions to the maple syrup industry.

UVM Proctor Maple Research Center was recognized for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of the maple industry and recognized the individuals who comprise of Proctors maple faculty and staff including: Dr. Tim Perkins, Research Professor and Director; Dr. Abby van den Berg, Assistant Professor; Tim Wilmot, UVM Extension Maple Specialist; Brian Stowe, Sugaring Operations and Land Manager; and, Mark Isselhardt, Research Technician/Analyst.

Medicago-Sinorhizobium Workshop Hosted by Jeanne Harris

Jeanne Harris organized and hosted the all-day New England Medicago-Sinorhizobium Workshop at UVM on October 26, 2013. The workshop was a chance for plant biologists and microbiologists working on the same symbiosis to get together and share recent research results and ideas. Scientists from five institutions were in attendance (UVM, U Conn, U Mass Amherst, Castleton State, and MIT). Speakers included professors, postdocs, grad students, and undergrad students. Research areas included everything from bacterial metabolism to biochemistry to cell biology to plant physiology and genetics.

Dan Gage gives talk
Dan Gage from U Conn presents at the Medicago-Sinorhizobium Workshop (photo credit Gianna Sassi)

Inauguration of the Louise Raynor Scholarship

The Louise Raynor Scholarship fund was established through a charitable bequest from Associate Professor Emeritus Louise Raynor's estate. This year, PhD student Emily Larson was the first recipient of the scholarship award. More detail about Emily's research and how she has made use of the scholarship can be read in an extensive article on the CALS news page.

Plant Biology award recipients
From left: Brendan Lyons, Beck Powers, Dr. Dave Barrington, and Alex MIller

Undergraduate researchers honored at CALS ceremony

Three undergraduate students in the Plant Biology Department received awards at the CALS Honors Day ceremony on April 19, 2013. Brendan Lyons received the Sproston Award, which will support his research in the Barrington lab. The Superior Performance Award went to two seniors this year: Alex Miller and Beck Powers, both members of the Harris lab.

Teaching on the cutting edge

Plant Biology Lecturer Laura Hill Bermingham has become a leader at UVM in innovative teaching methods. She employs "Just in Time Teaching," which engages students in a "flipped" classroom, where learning takes place via multi-media assignments outside of class, peer instruction, and in-class lectures that are designed on the spot to address gaps in student understanding. She uses iClickers to engage students and test their comprehension in real time during the class period. Dr. Hill Bermingham's implementation of these teaching methods has been so successful that the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has asked her to teach workshops to other UVM faculty on the methods. Read more in UVM Today.

Listen to the VPR radio show Vermont Edition explore the flipped classroom with Laura Hill Bermingham.

SARE grant to fund research at the Proctor

Dr. Tim Perkins and Dr. Abby van den Berg were awarded a $175,726 grant through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. The grant will fund their research at the Proctor Maple Research Center on improving profits for maple producers through tubing sanitation. Congratulations to Tim and Abby!

Rice paddies in Vermont
Rice paddies in Moretown, VT (photo credit: Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design Research Farm)

Rice farming in Vermont symposium

Plant Biology Lecturer and Research Associate Laura Hill Bermingham organized a symposium on rice farming in Vermont, held in the Silver Maple Ballroom in UVM's Davis Center on February 26. The symposium was hosted by Lake Champlain Sea Grant and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Dr. Hill Bermingham facilitated discussion with a panel of Vermont rice farmers, including Ben Falk (Whole Systems Design Research Farm in Moretown), Erik Andrus (Boundbrook Farm in Vergennes), Josh Brill (Breezy Meadows Orchard and Nursery in Tinmouth), and Sjon and Elysha Welters (Center for Natural Living in Cabot). Following the panel discussion, participants conversed in a series of interactive round-table discussions focused on individual's interest in rice farming, exploiting opportunities, and meeting the challenges of growing rice in Vermont. The event attracted a variety of people, such as area farmers, including members from the Bhutanese community who have farmed rice for generations, students, journalists, the Vermont Land Trust, UVM extension, and Vermont Fish and Wildlife. For more information about growing rice in Vermont, visit http://www.uvm.edu/~lhill/?Page=rice.html or contact Laura Hill Bermingham (lhill@uvm.edu).

Field Naturalist awarded John Burroughs Medal

Field Naturalist (FN) Program alum Thor Hanson (1999) has been awarded the 2013 John Burroughs Medal for his book Feathers. As described by a member of the selection committee, "this book is great natural history with intense focus and telescopic detail. It soars through an engaging blend of history, archaeology, animal behavior, art, physics, and conservation." Hanson is lauded by the committee as "one of our strongest winners for his excellence in the tradition of natural history writing."

The John Burroughs Medal Award was created 87 years ago to honor the best in nature writing, a genre perfected by John Burroughs. The Award has been given annually since 1926 to books that combine scientific accuracy, firsthand fieldwork, and excellent natural history writing. Hanson joins the ranks of past Burroughs medalists including Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Roger Torey Peterson, and Loren Eiseley. Read more about Thor Hansen and his new book in UVM Today.

Jill Preston secures funding

Jill Preston, the newest addition to the Plant Biology faculty, has won significant funding from the Craighead Foundation for research on the genetic basis of petal fusion in the more recently evolved groups of the dicots. The Craighead Foundation was established to foster research into the biology of plants with an emphasis on topics of importance and interest in ornamental horticulture and especially on how flowering floral and foliage growth characteristics can be improved by modern biologic approaches. The program is a perfect match for Jill's interests! Congratulations Jill.

Proctor at the Smithsonian this summer

Members of the Proctor Maple Research Center are representing UVM at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this summer on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The University of Vermont is a featured university at the festival.

Two grants to fund the Pringle Herbarium

The Pringle Herbarium group has won two grants for the development of its virtual herbarium (i.e. an online version of the herbarium that includes specimen data and images). The first is a grant from the Mellon Foundation to work on critical plant collections with special attention to the tropical American collections. The second is an NSF collaborative grant with an array of other northeastern herbaria to focus on New England plants relevant to studies of climate change.

Plant Biology postdoc to give talk at ASPB

Christine Ondzighi, Postdoc in Jeanne Harris's lab, has been selected to give a minisymposium talk at the annual American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) meeting this July in Austin, TX. THe title of Christine's talk is "The LATD/NIP Transporter is Required for Normal ABA Localization at the Root Tip as well as for Cell Wall Formation."

New McNair fellow

Plant Biology undergraduate student Jon Gonzalez won a McNair fellowship to do research in Jeanne Harris's lab for summer 2012. Jon has been doing research with Biology professor Alison Brody.

PhD student Emily Larson to give her third talk at an international conference

Emily Larson, PhD student in the cross-college Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) program and member of the Tierney lab, will give an oral presentation at the upcoming PanAmerican Plant Membrane Biology Workshop (PAPMBW) in Asilomar, CA. The title of Emily's talk is "New insights into how the plant cell wall influences vesicular trafficking to the vacuole in arabidopsis root hairs." This is Emily's third consecutive abstract to be accepted at international and national conferences for an oral presentation. In addition, Emily's travel to this conference will be paid for by a competitive travel grant from the Graduate College.

Research on growing rice in Vermont

Laura Hill Bermingham has won additional funding with a new grant "The future of growing rice in Vermont: managing for climate change" through the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program that partners Vermont farmers with researchers. The group plans to study how variable water availability affects rice plant vigor, survival, panicle formation, maturation date, and total grain yield of 4 temperate rice strains. Click here to see Dr. Hill Bermingham interviewed on WCAX TV.

Brian Stowe wins the CALS 2012 Award for Excellence in Staff Support

Brian Stowe, Woodlands and Sugaring Operations Manager at the Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC), is the winner of the 2012 Award for Excellence in Staff Support in the College of Agriculture and LIfe Sciences (CALS). Brian's work at the PMRC emphasizes sugarbush management, maple tubing layout, upgrades, repairs, and the annual production of maple syrup. He is also involved in designing, building, and maintaining various studies centered around maple sap collection and maple syrup production techniques and assisting in many of the studies on forest growth, health, and nutrition. The Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC) is a field research station of the Plant Biology Department. Located in Underhill, it is a working sugarbush with a production maple sugarhouse, which Brian Stowe is responsible for running. Brian is integral to the functioning of the PMRC.

Field Naturalist student a 2012 Park Break fellow

Field Naturalist graduate student Cathy Bell has been selected for a 2012 Park Break Fellowship at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Park Break is an all-expenses-paid alternative Spring Break for graduate students thinking about a careear in park management, research, or education. This highly selective fellowship program is organized by the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the George Wright Society. This year, the program received 139 applications, and Cathy was one of the eight fellows selected.

PBIO undergrad nominated for Goldwater Scholarship

Plant BIology undergraduate student Alex Miller is one of four UVM students who were nominated for the prestigious national Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in science and mathematics.

Liz Thompson wins the Franklin Fairbanks Award

Liz Thompson, part-time instructor in Plant Biology and member of the Pringle Herbarium team, has won this year's Franklin Fairbanks Award. Here is the Fairbanks Museum's Announcement of the award:

The 2012 Franklin Fairbanks Award recognizes Elizabeth Thompson as a defining voice of Vermont’s natural communities. One of Vermont’s preeminent botanists and ecologists, she is the Director of Conservation Science for the Vermont Land Trust. Liz Thompson helped start Vermont's Natural Heritage Program, identifying fragile natural areas of importance to the state’s biological diversity and shaping strategies for their protection. She has advised many Vermont communities on priorities for conservation planning, and has taught field botany and plant ecology at the University of Vermont.

Since 2003, Liz Thompson has led a partnership between the Vermont Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to identify and promote the protection of ecologically important features on the conserved lands of these organizations. As a key figure in another collaboration among local, regional, and national organizations, Liz has worked to protect the diverse threatened upland landscapes of Vermont’ s Chittenden County, close to her heart and her home in Jericho.

The Franklin Fairbanks Award is an honor dedicated to individuals for service that has enriched our awareness and understanding of the natural world through contributions in the arts, humanities, and sciences. We’ll celebrate the many people whose vision, dedication and talents carry the spirit of Franklin Fairbanks’s vision and help us understand the world around us by naming this year’s Fairbanks Fellows.

Plant Biology professor involved in a $20 million research project to study climate change and Lake Champlain

Plant Biology Associate Professor Brian Beckage is one of several collaborating scientists working on a project to study Lake Champlain in the face of climate change. This project is funded by a $20 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Dr. Beckage's expertise in mathematical modeling of copmlex systems will be an important contribution to this regional project. Clear here to read the Burlington Free Press article covering this grant.

Terry Delaney's mushroom expertise featured on TV news

Plant Biology professor Terry Delaney has twice recently been interviewed by local TV news programs regarding the safety of wildcrafting mushrooms. These news stories have been spurred by an unusually prolific mushroom season owing to all the wet weather in the late summer and early fall. With so many mushrooms, the incidence of poisoning has also increased this season, so news programs are warning the public to be cautious about eating wild mushrooms that they can't positively identify.

See the story featuring Terry on Fox 44 news.

See the story featuring Terry on WCAX news.

Monique McHenry with fern
Monique McHenry examines a fern in the Bolivian Andes that appears to be a new species.

Monique McHenry wins best paper in her section at Botany 2011

Monique McHenry, PhD student in Dave Barrington's lab, won an American Society of Plant Taxonomists travel award to attend the Botanical Society of America's Botany 2011 conference. While at the conference, she received the Wherry Award for the best paper presented in the Pteridological Section of the Botanical Society of America meetings. You can read the abstract from Monique's paper at the Botany 2011 conference website. Congratulations, Monique!

Outstanding Plant Biology students honored

Amanda Bousquet accepting awardDerrick Deming accepting award
Amanda Bousquet (left) and Derrick Deming (right) accept their awards from Plant Biology Chair David Barrington at the CALS Honors Day Ceremony on April 15, 2011. Photos courtesy of Todd Pritchard.

Two undergraduate students in the Plant Biology program received awards at the 2011 CALS Honors Day ceremony. Junior Amanda Bousquet won the Sproston Award, which will help to fund research that she's been working on in Jeanne Harris's lab. Derrick Deming, a graduating senior who was also a member of the Harris lab, won the Award for Superior Performance in Plant Biology. Congratulations and best wishes to both Amanda and Derrick.

Don Stratton wins the 2011 Carrigan Award

Dr. Donald A. Stratton, lecturer in Plant Biology and co-director of the Integrated Biological Sciences undergraduate program, is the 2011 recipient of the Joseph E. Carrigan Award for Excellence in Teaching and Undergraduate Education. The Carrigan Award is created to recognize a faculty member in CALS for outstanding efforts in undergraduate teaching and advising and to emphasize that undergraduate instruction is a function of major importance.

Jeanne Harris summed up Don's talents and dedication in her nomination statement: "Don Stratton is held in high esteem as an educator within our department and throughout the college, as a teacher in undergraduate courses, as an academic advisor, and in his role as co-Director of the undergraduate Integrated Biological Science program. Don is a gifted and enthusiastic teacher who develops an easy rapport with his students."

One student says, "Professor Stratton demonstrated not only an innovative teaching style, but also a continued conscious effort towards bettering his students understanding of biology. I have benefitted from his engaging lectures, encouraging attitude, and challenging homework assignments/exams." One of his advisees says "Don Stratton has made himself available to me as an advisor in every instance I have asked for help, despite his busy schedule. I have had the pleasure of being one of his students as well as an advisee, and can say that he has been both supportive and accommodating in both settings."

Don Stratton is the sixth member of the Plant Biology faculty to receive this distinction. He joins Tom Vogelmann, Jeanne Harris, Cathy Paris, Ian Worley, and Dave Barrington, a testament to the quality teaching expertise and dedication to undergraduate education in the Plant Biology Department. Congratulations, Don!

PBIO Grad Students to Present at the ASPB Annual Meeting

PhD students Emily Larson (in Mary Tierney's lab) and Chang Zhang (in Jeanne Harris's lab) have both been selected from among the students submitting abstracts to the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) to present their work in an oral presentation at the ASPB Annual Meeting in Minneapolis August 6-10, 2011. This is a distinct honor for our graduate students, as the process for choosing abstracts for oral presentation is quite selective. Congratulations, Emily and Chang!

A Living Lab

Video by Jeffrey R. Wakefield, University Communications

James M. Jeffords Hall, a new life sciences building that opened its doors to students in the fall of 2010, is one of the largest and most significant academic structures ever built on the UVM campus. Its faculty research labs and seven undergraduate teaching labs are cutting edge, full of state-of-the-art equipment. But it could be the living laboratory outside the building's walls that truly sets Jeffords Hall apart.

Doug Gomez of IMF stands by as Chunfang Wei (left) and Phil Lintilhac of Plant Biology take a first look at a special pressurized chamber he built and helped design for them. The device may help the researchers come to a new understanding of the bio-physics of plant cell growth. (Photo: Sally McCay)

A model for good research

Article by Jeffrey R. Wakefield, University Communications

Pretend for a minute that you've developed a new mathematical model for cell growth in plants.

Rather than expanding smoothly like a balloon, you hypothesize, cell walls behave as if they were a pixellated surface, expanding on a pixel-by-pixel basis to the internal pressure that drives cell growth. Your theory is confirmed by the fact that it predicts measured cell pressure much more accurately than the currently accepted model.

To test your hypothesis in the lab -- and create publishable data that could lead to a more useful and universal understanding of plant growth -- here's all you need: a multi-sided, 16-and-a-half inch tall chamber of thick glass panels, stainless steel and acrylic, with a pressurized cylinder on top for exchanging gasses, into which a giant celled alga can be suspended in water and subjected to eight atmospheres of pressure.

Read the entire article here.

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