MU plant sciences researchers hosted the 4th joint symposium this week (May 6-7) between faculty from Gyeongsang National University, Jinju, Korea. This symposium is a biennial exchange between MU and GNU. GNU ( is one of Korea's strongest universities in plant science research.



Among our outreach activities we are also dedicated to recruiting and mentoring undergraduate students in plant science research. The Freshman Research in Plant Science (FRIPS) program is a new initiative implemented during the 2010-11 school year and designed to recruit freshman students to plant science research. Multiple faculty mentors invite FRIPS students to work in their labs for 8-12 hours/week during the academic year. Students’ responsibilities included making solutions, making and characterizing artificial liposomes and proteoliposomes; purifying proteins; transforming bacteria, conducting PCR, restriction enzyme digests, and gel electrophoresis; assisting with genetic screenings; and an array of other laboratory duties. Students also attend weekly FRIPS meetings led by a senior graduate student which engaged students in discussions, presentations, and activities designed to enhance experiences with plant research.  The students shown in the picture with Dr. Stacey are those witin the first cohort in 2010 and 2011. Also shown, second from the left in the first row) is Amy Repoglie, the Ph.D. student, who helped with the FRIPS program.


Student evaluations of the FRIPS program have been uniformly positive. For example: “My participation in the FRIPS program has helped me gain perspective to the research side of being [at] a land-grant university. It also served as a confidence booster, helping me keep my head above water with all of the stress that comes along with college. Working in the lab during my first year of college really helped me to think deeper into the topics I was learning in class to show the real world applications.” Another student stated: “It’s definitely helped me to become involved in research in ways I wouldn’t otherwise be able to—I feel that PIs considered you more qualified beyond “dish duty” and you can immediately begin to learn about what’s going on and techniques research labs use. I also feel FRIPS helped me learn some of the “basics” I would otherwise feel embarrassed to ask someone in my lab about. Finally, I think FRIPS helped me explore a field in research to help me fully decide if research was something I wanted to commit myself to.”


Faculty evaluations of FRIPS have also been very positive and they appreciative of excitement and enthusiasm the students brought into their labs. The FRIPS program is designed to support students only during their freshmen year with the anticipated goal of having faculty mentors continue supporting the students beyond the first year. The FRIPS program has continued since 2010 and we will soon induct our third cohort. We have also received inquiries from other Universities who appeared interested in duplicated the program on their own campuses. Application material for the FRIPS program can be found at

The eight-week Research Experience for High School students provides plant genome research  experiences for up to six students each summer.  This program provides a combination of experiences for the students, including short science talks by faculty and graduate students, laboratory research with undergraduate and graduate student mentors, and weekly events with other campus-based summer programs.  The undergraduate and graduate students are excellent role models for the high school students, encouraging them to think about pursuing a career in science and sharing what they have learned through their experiences in plant genome research.   A pre/post survey is utilized to measure student attitudes toward science as well as overall science career awareness.  The project has partnered with the Missouri Academy to identify outstanding high school students to participate in our program. Details about the Missouri Academy can be found at

Nitrogen in the environment

  • Nitrogen is an essential component of many organic molecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins, the building blocks of life.  Air is the major reservoir of nitrogen that constitutes 79% of nitrogen gas (N2). Although the majority of the air we breathe is N2, most of this is unavailable for use. This is because of the strong triple bond between the N atoms in the N2 molecules that make it relatively inert. Therefore, in order for the plants and animals to use nitrogen, N2 gas must be converted to either ammonium (NH4+) or nitrate (NO3-) or organic nitrogen such as urea - (NH3)2CO.
  • Nitrogen (N), a macronutrient, is most frequently found limiting for plant growth. This is due to the continual loss of nitrogen from the reserve of combined or fixed nitrogen, which is present in soil and available for use by plants. It is continually depleted by such processes as microbial denitrification, soil erosion, leaching, chemical volatilization, and most important, removal of nitrogen-containing crop residues from the land. The nitrogen reserve in agricultural soils must therefore be replenished periodically in order to maintain an adequate (non-growth limiting) level for crop production. This replacement of soil nitrogen is generally accomplished by the addition of chemically fixed nitrogen in the form of commercial inorganic fertilizers or by the activity of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) systems.
  • Nitrogen is a versatile element that exists in both organic and inorganic forms as well as in many different oxidation states. The movement of nitrogen between the atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere is described in the nitrogen cycle (Figure 1), one of the major biogeochemical cycles.

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