:::: broader impacts ::::

Outreach and Education

We are often invited and always excited to give presentations about our research to the general public. We have had the opportunity to meet with legislators, children and seniors. We think it is critical to share how our findings can be used to improve our local communities, the state, the country and ultimately all of humanity.

Any upcoming talk will be listed in our News Feed and posted online if the recording is available.

Norma A. Castro-Guerrero with elementary school children learning how to grow plants using hydroponicsMU legislatures visiting the DMC lab to learn about current research

Classes being taught at MU:

PLNT_S 4320_7320 Molecular Plant Physiology (every Fall semester)

PLNT_S 4550_7550 Plant Biotechnology (only on even years, Spring semester)

Guest lecturer in the following classes:

PLNT_S 8505 Introduction to Plant Stress Biology (every Spring semester)

PLNT_S 8530 Research with Plant Stress Agents (every Fall semester)

Interdisciplinary training at the interface of plant biology and engineering.

Over the last decade, plant biologists have developed resources to study the function of genes in species like Arabidopsis, Zea mays (corn), Oryza sativa (rice), Glycine max (soybean), among others. These are publicly available collections containing thousands of mutants and, on one hand, these resources offer an opportunity to make new discoveries and assign specific functions to novel genes. On the other hand, screening all these resources requires a significant amount of time and effort just for testing one collection in a particular condition (e.g., nutrient deficiency).

High-throughput plant phenotyping is an emerging and fast-moving field capable of performing automated, consistent measurements of plant growth and development. However, designing and building high-throughput devices with high sensitivity and reliability requires not only a clear understanding of biological systems but also engineering proficiency. Currently, plant biologists are not trained in engineering, nor are engineers trained in plant biology.

meetings between engineers and plant sciences students to design and build pehenonotyping robots for small plants.meetings between engineers and plant sciences students to design and build pehenonotyping robots for small plants.

We have started an interdisciplinary program, in collaboration with Dr. Heather Hunt (MU Bioengineering), where teams of students from engineering and plant sciences work together to design, build and test automatic platforms for high-throughput phenotyping of plants. Furthermore, during the entire academic year (2015-2016) an MU journalist followed the team and conducted interviews at regular intervals to document how members from different fields exchange ideas to solve problems at different stages of the project.

Our first cohort of interdisciplinary students graduated in Spring 2016 after successfully assembling S.P.I.P. [Small Plant Imaging Platform v0.9]. The entire process was documented by Michael Sojka (MU Journalism) and organized in 8 episodes that describe the process from the start of the project to the presentation of S.P.I.P. at the Life Sciences Week in 2016.


episode: 1 Introduction

episode: 2 Getting started

episode: 3 Teamwork makes the dream work

episode: 4 Building

episode: 5 Countdown

episode: 6 Catching up

episode: 7 The final countdown

episode: 8 Future plans

We really enjoyed the project and we will keep updating the progress on SPIP, its upgrades and other projects that are currently under development!

Learn more about the project at NSF's Focus on Broader Impacts.