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DNA-based, Immunofluorescence, and Nano Technologies: Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists at the College of Ag. Sc. of the UPR


<p>A. Recruitment </p>
<br/>1) Create science clubs focusing in agricultural microbiology (Club de Agro-Microbios) at participating public schools. At the end, students belonging to the sciences clubs must be proficient in the use and application of diverse techniques (DNA-based, Immunofluorescence (IF), and nanotechniques) in the study of food and plant-microbe interactions. Special proficiency is expected on crops and food biosecurity issues. Students will demonstrate mastery of these concepts and methods by using play-acting scenarios including detection of new or key pathogens, best practices implementation and food security situations. 2) Increase (10%) the number of high academic achievement students at the College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS)-UPRM. Students from public schools will be invited to come and work hands-on-hands in research problems pertaining plant pathology and food sciences. They will be exposed to the application of novel technologies. Field trips to agricultural plots and laboratory facilities will be coordinated. Students of high academic achievement will invited to conduct research in topics related to plant pathogens and food microbiology. They will be invited to join the UPRM Ag Program that supports them during their research projects. We expect an increase of 30-40 new undergraduate students to our target programs over the life of the project. B. Retention </p>
<p>1) Increase the number of CAS students with a strong background in DNA-Based, IF and nanotechnologies in relation to crops and food biosecurity. Curriculum enhancement and subject exposure through workshops and hands-on student participation in research activities will be used as tools towards their achievement. Undergraduate students will apply novel technologies in relation to crops and food biosecurity through research mentoring. Positive research mentoring will help create a select cadre of well-motivated and career minded students whose leading academic exposure is in crop and food biosecurity. Mentored students will be surveyed yearly to ascertain level of satisfaction and monitored by their respective mentors. A steady yearly increase in the number of students mentored will be expected. </p>
<p>2) Strengthen CAS curriculum enhancing programs of crop protection, animal and food sciences. New laboratory practices in topics related DNA-Based, IF and nanotechnologies will be incorporated in existing courses. New undergraduate courses will be designed and submitted for University approval. </p>
<p>3) Develop a series of workshops design to prepared students, faculty and technicians on novel technologies (i.e. DNA-Based, IF and nanotechnologies) and their application in crops and food biosecurity. Capacity building in the application of novel technologies by participating students, faculty and technicians will be experimented through workshop series. Skills development through directed group discussions and panels will be evaluated. Participant satisfaction and self-evaluations will be ascertained following each workshop. High levels of satisfaction and new awareness of issues are expected. Results will be used gauge need for workshop redesign and overall impact.</p>

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<p>NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY:<br/> Plant pathology and food sciences have commonly employed new techniques to deal with microbial pathogens. Recent concerns about bioterrorism, food safety and crop health have prompted scientists to intensely focus on early detection, rapid diagnosis, and pathogen risk assessment. Techniques based on DNA analysis, immunofluorescence and nanotechnology are newer ways to study food- and plant- microbe interactions. Activities in this proposal will expose and train over 600 Hispanic students to address key biosecurity issues, as well as on the application of these latest techniques to address plant-pathogen interactions and human food safety.
<p>APPROACH: <br/> 1) Recruitment Project staff will visit public schools to help teachers formalize four science clubs (Club de Agro-Microbios), in order to attract and expose youth to topics related to agricultural microbiology focusing in the application of novel technologies (DNA-Based, IF and nanotechnologies) in crops and food biosecurity. Oral presentations and workshops of different topics and their application in agricultural sciences will be organized by project staff. A field trip will be coordinated to exposed public school students to crop production systems, management practices and laboratory settings. At the end of the grant at least 120 students will be impacted with the creation of sciences clubs of ten student minimum in four participating schools. Students demonstrating scientific inclinations and talent will be selected to participate in research
projects concerning plant pathology and foods science at university facilities. 2) Retention A) Instrumentation will be updated by the acquisition of a Real Time-PCR thermocycler and a new ELISA Reader to be used in laboratory practices and workshops. An instrument-related workshop series has been developed as part of this proposal. B) Major curriculum changes at the plant pathology and food science programs in areas of DNA based and nanotechnologies will be implemented. New laboratory practices in topics related to novel technologies will be incorporated in 11 different courses; 3 new undergraduate courses will be designed. C) A series of workshops and scholar lectures will be addressed to faculty, students and technicians to inspire and enhance the quality of post-secondary instruction. Workshop topics will be diverse (i.e. Bioterrorism; Real-Time PCR and Loop-mediated Isothermal
Amplification; Advanced Fungal Genomic and Biotechnology; Bioinformatics; Immunofluorescence and Nanotechnology applied in agriculture). D) Research mentoring of undergraduate student at the CAS-UPR will be continued with the approval of this project in areas related to crops and food biosecurity. Annually, this project will provide economic resources for four undergraduate students to be enrolled in research courses in topics related to plant pathology, food sciences and nanotechnology. The students may choose from CAS-UPRM faculty or USDA-Agricultural Research Service collaborators. The project staff will evaluate and recruit students from 3rd or 4th BS year with GPA of 2.75 or more interested in research. An annual stipend will be paid to those performing satisfactory work. Once a month, mentors and students will meet to discuss research progress. Formal presentation of their research
will be given as part of the CAS-UPRM Undergraduate Research Forum (Jornada Cientifica Subgraduada) at the end of the 2nd semester. The student will be asked to write a report expressing their experiences during their research year. A set of questions will be developed to guide and obtain feedback from student on their research experiences to improve the program.
<p>PROGRESS: 2012/09 TO 2013/08<br/>Target Audience: Target audiences: The project addressed Hispanics students from public middle and high schools of the Western Region of Puerto Rico (ages 12 to 17); five undergraduate and three graduate students; and professionals (faculty and technicians) of the College of Agriculture of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Campus. Efforts; Public middle and high schools of the Western Region of Puerto Rico: During Sept. 2012 project staff organized and formalized four science clubs (Club de Agro-Microbios?). The objective was to teach and train public middle and high school students on novel technologies used in agricultural microbiology and nanotechnology. Experiential learning opportunities were delivered by project staff to school students through a series of workshops focusing on plant pathology, food sciences and
nanotechnology. Each group was composed of ten students of excellent academic achievement. Workshops included power point presentations, hand-outs and hands-on laboratory practices. At the end of the first year of the project, forty public middle and high school students of the Western region of Puerto Rico were impacted by the project. In addition, four fellowships of $1,000 each were offered to outstanding students to conduct research under faculty supervision. Students will start working in their projects in Sept. 2013. Undergraduate students at UPR-Mayaguez: Five undergraduate students (3 females and 2 males) did lab and field research and had professional learning experiences on aspects of plant pathology, food sciences, and chemical engineering applied to agricultural sciences under the guidance and supervision of four UPR professors (females) and one TARS-USDA scientist (male).
Graduate students at UPR-Mayaguez: Three female graduate students pursing M.S. degrees were supported by the project during 2012-2013. They were conducting research in aspects of plant pathology and food microbiology. In addition, they worked as supportive staff during public school visits and hands-on workshops delivered to participating students. UPR-Mayaguez faculty, technicians and graduate students: During the summer of 2013, twenty-one faculty, technicians and graduate students attended three different lab and hands-on workshops that were offered by visiting scholars from different USA universities and faculty of the UPR. Workshops were organized to train UPR personnel in novel technologies applied to plant pathology and food sciences. Changes/Problems: Due to socioeconomic changes in Puerto Rico)?s society, a major migration to continental USA (> 500,000 persons) have
occurred, we have lost some of the students enrolled in the (Club de Agro-Microbios)? for the 2013-2014 academic year. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Five senior undergraduate students were well trained in laboratory practices commonly used in plant pathology, food microbiology and nanotechnology. Three graduate students (M.S.) in fields of plant pathology and food sciences were partially supported by the project. After the acquisition of instrumentation, a workshops series was offered during the summer of 2013. UPR faculty, technicians and graduate students received three hands-on workshops on: Bioterrorism: Primer Design for Pathogen Diagnostics (Web-based workshop); Nanotechnology Applied to Food Sciences; and Real Time PCR and Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). How have the results been disseminated to
communities of interest? A facebook page was created to inform and network with school teachers and students participating in the activities (i.e. workshops) of the (Club de Agro-Microbios)?. A site and project page is under construction at UPR network system (work in progress). What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Continue organizing new (Club de Agro-Microbios)? (sciences clubs) at different low income public schools to expose students to global crops and food biosecurity issues. Offer hands-on workshops on topics related to crop and food sciences to a new group of students from low income public schools of the Western region of Puerto Rico. Coordinate a field trip to UPR-Agricultural Research Station to expose public school students to agricultural production systems, crop management practices and laboratory settings.
Train selected high academic achievement students from public schools and from the CAS-UPRM in the application of novel technologies such as DNA-based-, immuno- or nanotechnologies in plant pathology, food sciences and other agricultural related disciplines. Design new courses to improve curriculum of the College of Agricultural Sciences of the UPR. Analyze student feedback participating in the project to assess recruitment and retention strategies. Be more effective in the dissemination of project results to the community. Events will be posted at regional and national professional newsletters to provide coverage of project activities of concern to the UPR system, plant pathologyand food sciences community.

Rivera, Lydia I
Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez
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