A woman and a man, wearing white lab coats and standing in a lab
Doctoral candidate Alice Valdez Pierce, left, will coordinate the science education portion of an NSF CAREER grant awarded to Grey Monroe, right, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. (Chaehee Lee/UC Davis)

NSF Award for Monroe will push knowledge of DNA repair in plants

High-schoolers will explore plant stress

Grey Monroe has received a CAREER Award for the Faculty Early Career Development Program from the National Science Foundation. Monroe is an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

Monroe’s award expands on his recent work making breakthroughs in our understanding of genetic mutation in plants (published in Nature). This grant provides more than $1 million over the next five years.

“Mutations are the starting point of all genetic variation, the foundation for plant breeding and adaptation to stresses like changing climates,” Monroe said. Now, he will delve deeper into how plants use DNA repair proteins to protect important parts of their genetic material from damaging mutations. “If we can better understand the origins of mutations, whether harmful or beneficial, we can use that knowledge to create better tools that harness plant’s natural DNA repair processes to make gene editing more effective.”

For example, crops such as pistachios could be adapted to produce food in harsher environments. Monroe’s research will expand our knowledge of how this mechanism works in plants. Scientists currently have some understanding of how DNA repair mechanisms work in our own bodies. This area of science is considered the cutting edge in advances to benefit human health and agriculture.

Bring along future scientists

As part of the project, Monroe will include high school students from underrepresented communities.

“I am passionate about involving students in this research, from graduate students, to undergrads and high-schoolers,” Monroe added.

Monroe Lab member Alice Valdez Pierce, a Ph.D. candidate in plant biology, will coordinate this aspect of the project. High school students will explore how genetic protection mechanisms affect plants’ tolerance to environmental stress. For that, Monroe and Valdez Pierce are partnering with EnvironMentors, a science education program of the Global Council for Science and the Environment, based in Washington, D.C. Its goal is to encourage students to attend college and careers in STEM.

Related links

More about Grey Monroe here.

CAREER is the National Science Foundation’s program to support “early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.”

Media Resources

  • Trina Kleist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, tkleist@ucdavis.edu, (530) 754-6148 or (530) 601-6846

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