Diane Bassham, Loomis Professor of Plant Physiology and professor of genetics, development and cell biology, was named a recipient of the spring 2018 Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Seed Grant Program (PIRS) by the Iowa State University Office of the Vice President for Research. Co-principal investigators working with Bassham are GDCB Associate Professor Carolyn Lawrence-Dill, University Professor Drena Dobbs and Animal Science Associate Professor Matthew Ellinwood.
A grant winner is a principal investigator of an interdisciplinary research team who aims to make ground-breaking discoveries that address state, national and global challenges. Awarded each year, PIRS grants are sponsored by ISU's Office of the President and an endowment from the Mary G. Miller estate. The grants are designed to support early-stage high-risk, high-reward projects that help researchers from different disciplines collaborate on groundbreaking research, including collecting research data, organizing research workshops and building partnerships with other research organizations. Funding for the PIRS program is a maximum $50,000 total per project, over a two-year period.
Bassham and her ISU research team contend that they can compare phenotypes across a wide range of species and, therefore, translate basic findings in model species to agricultural and medical applications. The hurdle, however, is that computational tools to easily compare phenotypes across divergent organisms do not yet exist. Bassham and her research team plan to assemble a group of scientists who will create novel computational tools to identify equivalent phenotypes across a variety of organisms, leveraging knowledge gained through one organism and applying it to others, and thereby finding new genes relevant to disease processes. Together, the scientists will develop tools to identify phenologs, design protocols for testing predictions and seek external funding to continue studying the disease genes they identify.
For information on Bassham's and other awards, read "Office of the Vice President for Research announces PIRI, PIRS grant recipients."