Roanoke College Professor Awarded $100,000 Grant from USDA

SALEM, Va. -- Dr. Leonard Pysh, associate professor of biology at Roanoke College, was recently awarded a two-year research grant of $100,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture. Pysh's project aims at enhancing the nation's nutrition and health and improving its natural resource base.

The project, titled "Coordination between Cellulose and Lignin Synthesis in Root Cell Walls," will explore the relationship between cellulose and lignin, compounds that are found in the cell walls of plants and important in human health and industry. Plants deficient in cellulose have short, fat roots. He hypothesizes that a reduction in cellulose in root cell walls causes an increase in lignin, which, in turn, reduces root cell elongation. If this is correct, reducing the amount of lignin in cellulose mutants should result in an increase in root cell elongation. Pysh will test this hypothesis using molecular, genetic, biochemical, and cellular analyses of mutants in the mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana and in maize.

Pysh has taught at Roanoke since 1998. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wabash College and earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. Afterward completing his Ph.D., he was a Post-Doctoral Associate at New York University. Pysh has previously been awarded grants from the National Institutes of Health and the USDA. He has supervised thirty student researchers during his time at Roanoke College, many of whom have successfully pursued graduate studies in biology, medicine, and veterinary science. In 2005, Pysh was honored with the Exemplary Teaching Award at the College's annual awards celebration.

Roanoke College combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a classic, undergraduate setting in Salem, Virginia. Roanoke prepares students for their futures through its commitment to providing a true classic college experience. Roanoke is one of just 276 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast."

For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.

Released: December 10, 2008
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