A new program at UC Riverside known as Plants-3D will help to prepare undergraduate students for careers addressing agricultural issues from a science and engineering perspective. The program is being made possible through a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program, which will be used to fund a total of 50 students to participate in the new program.
“The three D’s are for discover, design and deploy,” said Julia Bailey-Serres, UC Riverside professor of genetics and Director of the Center for Plant Cell Biology. “The motivation behind this program is to train students to address critical questions related to agriculture.”
The students who are participating in the program will receive academic and entrepreneurial training, as well as stipends made possible through the grant funding in order to facilitate traveling to professional conferences. There are significant opportunities in the field of agricultural biotechnology that will require innovative thinking. Bailey-Serres noted that increased interest in precision farming techniques highlights the importance of exposing students to more scientific approaches to agricultural issues.
“It’s likely that some of the students that come out of our program will be going into that sector of the ag industry; working with farmers so that they have a better understanding of what’s going on in the root systems underground with respect to availability of nutrients and possible diseases,” said Bailey-Serres. “Also, really critically here in California, knowing about the appropriate application of not just fertilizers, but water.”
The Plants-3D program will be looking at methods to address issues related to climate change and the impact it will have on agricultural production. Bailey-Serres also highlighted other paths for research related to fertilizer use and food waste. “There are more and more ways in which these different challenges can be approached. Our hope is that through developing innovative, collaborative solutions between faculty at UCR and also with individuals in industry that we will be able to bring these solutions to the field as soon as possible,” said Bailey-Serres.
Listen to the interview below.