The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) are partners on three proposals recently selected to receive funding through the Department of Energy (DOE) Reaching a New Energy Science Workforce (RENEW) initiative. The initiative will support internships, training programs, and mentoring opportunities. A total of 44 proposals involving 65 institutions were funded.
JBEI, a DOE Bioenergy Research Center (BRC), will be involved in the “Sustainable Arid Vegetation (iSAVe)” program, which will train a diverse future biotech workforce while focusing on the environmental sustainability of producing sorghum as a bioenergy crop on arid lands. The iSAVE efforts are led by Marina G. Kalyuzhnaya of San Diego State University’s (SDSU) Cell and Molecular Biology Department. She will be joined by 12 co-principal investigators (co-PIs) from five SDSU departments, JBEI, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). JBEI project scientist Deepika Awasthi will host and mentor SDSU graduate students from both San Diego and the Imperial Valley Campus on the usage of bioengineering techniques and analytical tools.
Two proposals involve the JGI, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. One aims to lay the foundation for a long-term training program led by Ernst Cebert with co-PIs Xianyan Kuang and Qunying Yuan from the Alabama A&M University College of Agricultural, Life, and Natural Resources. The team will establish and maintain field trials of bioenergy crops, as well as incorporate and develop proficiency in the genomics and phenomics tools to study them. Students will get hands-on training and experience, plus networking opportunities, at three partner institutions: with the JGI’s John Vogel and Sharon Greenblum; with Andrew Leakey of the DOE BRC Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and with JGI collaborator Kankshita Swaminathan of the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology and CABBI.
The third accepted proposal builds off an established internship program between the JGI and UC Merced, and aims to expand the partnership beyond the summer training experience. Originally intended for graduate students, the internship founded by the JGI’s Axel Visel and Zhong Wang and UC Merced’s Suzanne Sindi has broadened; to date, more than 70 undergraduate and graduate UC Merced students have been paired with JGI mentors, contributing to ~40 JGI projects. The students gain hands-on experience in genomic research, applying lab work and computational biology to aspects of energy and environmental challenges.
Funding through the RENEW initiative will support research by underrecognized groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at 65 different institutions, including 40 higher-learning institutions that serve minority populations. It leverages the DOE’s national laboratories, user facilities, and other research infrastructure to build a talent pool that will further the Department’s mission of solving the nation’s energy and environmental challenges through transformative science. Learn more in this Berkeley Lab announcement.