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WSU Researcher Partners with High School Science Teacher for Genomics Research and Education

PULLMAN, Wash. — WSU genomicist Amit Dhingra and Pullman High School agriscience teacher Tina DaVault have received a $15,000 Partners in Science grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

The competitive grant will enable DaVault and several of her students to conduct Rosaceae genomics research in Dhingra’s lab for two summers. In turn, DaVault will take what she learns in Dhingra’s lab back to her Pullman High School classes, where she will train students in cutting-edge lab techniques and eventually develop a curriculum in the area of horticultural genomics.

The Rosaceae family includes Washington’s largest crop–apples–as well as cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, roses and nuts. In terms of economic volume, Rosaceae is the third most important family in the U.S. and other temperate regions of the world. Its aggregate wholesale value in the United States is more than $8 billion, representing 8.5 percent of total crop production value in the United States in 2006.

“This is a great opportunity for students,” said DaVault. “It’s great to be able to expose students to university research.

“The equipment involved is pretty much general lab equipment,” she added. “It’s the techniques that have evolved so rapidly that we need to stay current in order to give our students the skills they need to succeed.”

Some of DaVault’s students will have the opportunity to intern in Dhingra’s lab.

“In addition to academics, we also teach job skills. We’ve placed high school students as interns in WSU labs, where they continue to work through college and sometimes beyond,” DaVault said.

“I’m passionate about getting young people involved in science,” said Dhingra, whose research includes the sequencing of the Golden Delicious apple genome. “I really admire the energy and creativity high school students can bring to research. Everyone benefits from partnerships like this.”

The Partners in Science grant program aims to provide high school science teachers with opportunities to work at the cutting edge of science, and thus to revitalize their teaching and help them use inquiry-based methods in the teaching of science. Awardees are selected based on the qualification of partner members, the quality of the research proposed and the potential for its impact on high school students.

The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust seeks to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to non-profit organizations that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. The Partners in Science program is one of its many efforts to do so in its grant-making region.

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Media Contacts

Amit Dhingra, Assistant Professor and Scientist, 509-335-3625
Tina DaVault, Pullman High School Agriscience Teacher, 509-332-1551 ext. 229