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Lindsay awarded USDA/NIFA pre-doctoral fellowship

Penelope Lindsay with her model plant, Medicago truncatula.

Penelope Lindsay with her model plant, Medicago truncatula.

Penelope Lindsay, a Cornell University graduate student in Plant Biology in the lab of BTI Professor Maria Harrison, has been awarded a 2-year fellowship from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The pre-doctoral fellowship will support the final years of her graduate work on arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis, an important plant-fungal relationship that helps plants to capture more nutrients from the soil.

Her work focuses on understanding the role of Vapyrin in establishing the symbiosis. The plant protein is critical for the formation of the tree-like fungal structures (arbuscules) within plant cells, where nutrient exchange occurs. Previous research in the Harrison lab suggests that Vapyrin facilitates protein-protein interactions, but the identities of the proteins it interacts with are still unknown, with the exception of EXO70I, a protein that is also needed to form mature arbscules. Lindsay is also interested in finding out how Vapyrin’s structure contributes to its function, and how its locations affect its role in arbuscule development.

The grant provides support for salary, tuition, materials and a travel stipend that will enable her to present her work at national conferences.

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