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NIH funds new phase of high school-university research partnership
Date:10/5/2009

Blacksburg, Va. A five-year-old Virginia Tech outreach program, which has more than 12,000 high school students doing research and providing results that scientists can use, has received a $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health. The Fralin Life Science Institute's Partnership for Research and Education in Plants (PREP) also received a $200,000 administrative supplement from NCRR to expand benefits to more students and more high schools and to conduct a rigorous study of PREP's impacts on student learning.

PREP was started in 2004 by Erin Dolan, associate professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and outreach director for the Fralin Institute, in collaboration with Frans Tax at the University of Arizona and Eric Brooks at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

"It is part of the Fralin Institute's outreach work with high school students and teachers to involve them in molecular life science. We have the Biotech-in-a-Box program, professional development programs for teachers, and partnership opportunities," said Dolan. "PREP began when some of the high school students we were working with wanted to collect real data in addition to the demonstration lab projects like those provided by Biotech-in-a-Box."

So, what kind of real data can students collect? "Microbes are not compelling for 15-year-olds, but plants are large enough and hardy enough for student caretakers," said Dolan.

The plant of choice is Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of the mustard plant. It has a small genome so it was the first plant to have its genome sequenced. It is now a model plant for many research projects. "Plant scientists are systematically one at a time knocking out the genes in this plant, and then growing the resulting plant to determine the role of the missing gene. Sometimes it is obvious
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Contact: Susan Trulove
STrulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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