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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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4/16/2009 Linfield professor earns NSF grant

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         McMINNVILLE – A Linfield College biology professor and two Linfield students will collaborate with peers at Oregon State University to learn more about the relationship of gymnosperms, such as conifers, and flowering plants, thanks to a recent award from the National Science Foundation.

         John Syring, assistant professor of biology, has been awarded $25,000 through an NSF Research Opportunity Award that establishes research connections between primarily undergraduate institutions and larger research counterparts.

         Syring and two Linfield students will join colleagues at OSU on an existing project about gymnosperms, called the Gymnosperm Tree of Life. The Gymnosperm Tree of Life grant is a multidisciplinary, collaborative research effort made up of 15 investigators at 12 institutions. The project is investigating the evolutionary relationships of both the living and extinct gymnosperms and hopes to solve the question of how angiosperms (flowering plants) are related to gymnosperms (conifers and their relatives). Relationships among the seed plant lineages will be determined through the comparison of DNA sequence data.

         Syring will optimize a methodology that allows for ease in the collection of massive DNA data sets. Where previous research compared DNA sequences from several thousand sites, this new methodology has the ability to make comparisons across hundreds of thousands of sites at a fraction of the cost. Using the newly optimized methods, Syring and his OSU colleagues will be responsible for the collection of sequence data from several conifer genera.

         Syring will present findings from his research at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference next year. He will incorporate his research into his developing curriculum at Linfield, in the areas of evolution, plant systematics and principles of biology. The advancing field of molecular systematics produces numerous opportunities to bring active research into the learning environment, and to teach students about the history that is encoded in DNA. In addition, the data will be used to develop a bioinformatics (DNA analysis) laboratory and lesson for biology students at McMinnville High School.

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