Two SEBS Faculty Receive Prestigious NSF CAREER Awards

Associate professor Ning Zhang, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, and Associate Professor Siobain Duffy, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, received prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awards from the NSF. The CAREER award is NSF’s “most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

Siobain Duffy

Siobain Duffy

Duffy’s CAREER project, “Can a virus get there from here? Mapping the pathways of RNA virus emergence,” is supported by $675,000 over five years. RNA viruses are known to frequently host-shift to infect new hosts, but improving infectivity on any single host species tends to hurt the virus when it tries to infect a different host. With a benign RNA virus that only infects bacteria, Duffy’s lab is determining how much adaptation to one host restricts the virus’ ability to emerge on new host species. Using experimental evolution, she will determine how often an RNA virus’ host specialization bends its evolutionary trajectory of emerging on novel hosts and how often it leads to dead ends that cause the virus to back track (revert mutations) before successfully adapting to new hosts. [Read more…]

NJAES Researchers Receive Grant for Consumer Study to Enable Growers to Capitalize on Organic Market

Fresh vegetable display at the local Farmer's Market

While small farms represent the dominant form of production agriculture in the world, typical agricultural knowledge and technology development models have often failed to improve small farm productivity, enhance resource conservation, reduce rural poverty, or improve regional food security.

A new research study in organic farming–a unique value-added form of agriculture–has been undertaken to help address inadequacies in the current knowledge of the organic market as well as provide innovative new options for struggling small farmers. Rutgers, in partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, was awarded a $99,803 grant for the study of consumer perceptions and behaviors in the Mid-Atlantic region in order to enable growers to capitalize on the organic market. The grant was awarded through the USDA’s Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, which provides matching funds to state departments of Agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations, and other state agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products, and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

Rutgers faculty participating in the project are Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics members, Professor Ramu Govindasamy (Principal Investigator), Instructor Isaac Vellangany, and Postdoctoral Associate Surendran Arumugam; Extension Specialist in Soil Science Joseph Heckman, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology; and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agents Rick Vanvranken, Atlantic County; Meredith Melendez, Mercer County; Wes Kline, Cumberland County; and Jenny Carleo, Cape May County. The goal of this research is to enhance both the net profits and the sustainability of small farms choosing to service the organic niche market.

Rutgers Dedicates N.J. Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health

Rutgers’ new hub for interdisciplinary research in food, nutrition and health aims to make New Jersey the "healthy state" and a model for the nation… The $55 million New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health on the George H. Cook Campus formally was dedicated Tuesday as college, state and private officials looked on. Financing came from a $35 million grant from the Building Our Future Bond Act and a $10 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation… Students in the building will study the country’s major nutrition-related health issues, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The building, designed with nature in mind and an open-space concept, also boasts New Jersey’s largest interior living wall. There also is space for conferences, meetings, laboratories, "smart" classrooms and offices.

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Cognitive Decline May Move Faster In People With Low Vitamin D

There have been suggestions that low levels of vitamin D might be a factor in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s no proof that the lack of D is actually causing the problems… A study published Monday doesn’t prove that link, but it does find that people with low levels of vitamin D lost key thinking skills more quickly that people with enough… "We’re relatively cautious in how we say this," Joshua Miller, chair of the department of nutrition in the school of environmental and biological sciences at Rutgers University, said. He’s the study’s lead author, and worked on it while he was at the University of California, Davis… "We always say, in consultation with your doctor we suggest that older adults have their vitamin D status measured," Miller says. "If it’s low, in consultation with their doctor, they might consider taking vitamin D supplements."

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Sweeney, Smith Tour New Facilities at Rutgers

Senators Steven Sweeney and Bob Smith toured new facilities at Rutgers and met with Honors College students. The experience left both impressed with the direction of higher education in the state… Sweeney and Smith joined Rutgers University President Robert Barchi on an exclusive tour Thursday of some of the new, state-of-the-art facilities at Rutgers, including the school’s soon-to-be-opened New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health and the Rutgers Honors College… The senators first visited Rutgers’ new New Jersey Institute for Food Nutrition and Health on Cook Campus. The $55 million dollar project was financed by a $35 million dollar grant from the Building Our Future Bond Act and a $10 million dollar grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It will officially open Oct. 27.

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