Genomic Science Program
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Biological and Environmental Research Program

Strengthening Educational and Research Capacity for Bioenergy Science at Alabama A & M University through a Combination of Education, Research, and Partnerships

Authors:

Xianyan Kuang1* (xianyan.kuang@aamu.edu), Ernst Cebert1, Qunying Yuan1, John Vogel2, Sharon Greenblum2, Kankshita Swaminathan3,5, Andrew Leakey4,5

Institutions:

1Alabama A & M University–Normal; 2DOE Joint Genome Institute; 3HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; 4University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; 5Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation

Goals

Alabama A & M University (AAMU) has an excellent record in the training of underrepresented individuals in the various disciplines of STEM. However, the university lacks the resources to initiate new programs or enhance current ones to address topics of national needs in some rapidly developing disciplines including renewable energy. Therefore, through a combination of education, research, and partnerships with the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), the assembled team will execute a set of objectives to (1) build foundational capacity for bioenergy research by establishing and maintaining field trials of bioenergy crops as well as the genomics and phenomics tools to study them; (2) train underrepresented students at AAMU and provide networking opportunities to promote recruitment into the bioenergy workforce and/or graduate training programs; (3) establish and sustain interactions with JGI and CABBI partners (HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; HA and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign; UIUC) for consistent training opportunities; and (4) foster an inclusive and equitable role for underrepresented student trainees through mentorship to create a well-trained workforce as the nation transitioned to bioenergy economy.

Abstract

In the initial phase of this educational project, efforts have been made in several areas:

  1. Student recruitment and engagement: Students have been recruited, both from within the university and from external institutions, to participate in various areas of bioenergy science. Two underrepresented undergraduate (female) students were recruited for microbiomics in partnership with JGI. Two underrepresented graduate students were recruited for plant genomics and biotechnology in partnership with CABBI and HA. Two trainees were recruited for high-throughput phenotyping/phenomics in partnership with CABBI and UIUC. These students are starting to engage with real-world projects and are being prepared for summer internships in 2024 at partner institutions.
  2. Partnership development and expansion: Initial efforts have been made to establish and expand interactions with JGI and CABBI Specifically, regular meetings with the JGI team have been established. A formal joint training program between HA and AAMU is being developed and plans are underway for student engagement with UIUC.
  3. Training module development: Based on identified needs and gaps in student knowledge and skills, training modules are being designed. Modules cover literature review, data collection, and basic data exploration with more to be developed for progressive learning.

The team will continue efforts in recruiting students for this project and other opportunities, enhancing their educational experience and preparing them for future careers in bioenergy science.

Funding Information

This research was supported by the DOE Office of Science, BER program, grant no. DE-SC0024615.