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Source: Tuskegee University news release

The Tuskegee University College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences (CAENS) has received $1.5 million to add research laboratories to the newly constructed Henderson Hall. The funds will be used to build Plant Biotechnology Research Laboratories, which are expected to be completed by summer 2016.

The funds resulted from a partnership of CAENS with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Monsanto Company. Monsanto awarded $750,000 toward the project and USDA provided $750,000 in matching funds.

Walter Hill, Tuskegee's provost and CAENS dean said: "The funds from USDA and Monsanto will be used to build-out state-of-the-art research laboratories in Henderson Hall---dedicated to molecular plant sciences, thereby complementing CAENS' long-term plant science research program.

The laboratory will be used to train students in agronomy, horticulture, breeding, genetics, entomology, plant pathology, agribusiness and related areas with specific emphasis on world-class biotechnology.

CAENS faculty and students will use the lab to intensively pursue cutting-edge research employing the most modern technologies in genomics, genetics, bioinformatics and molecular technologies aimed at knowledge-creation and product development of improved crop cultivars with high productivity, climate and pest resiliency, and nutritive qualities."

Henderson Hall was designed such that two-thirds of Tuskegee University students will take science courses in 'state-of-the art' teaching classrooms and laboratories. These courses include animal, environmental and plant sciences; biology and chemistry.

The teaching laboratories facilitate "hands on" experiences that reinforce learning of fundamental concepts and techniques, while enhancing students' analytical and critical thinking skills.

The new facilities are the first of several research laboratories proposed as additions to Henderson Hall. Other research laboratories planned include: integrated pest management, animal systems, food safety, nutrition, integrative biosciences, bio-energy, agricultural and environmental sciences engineering, and chemical analysis and synthesis. All the labs are designed to facilitate cross-disciplinary research.

The Monsanto and USDA awards for the construction strategically expands the research and teaching capabilities of Henderson Hall. This facility, along with the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center and the Black Belt Family Farm Fruit and Vegetable Marketing and Innovation Center in Selma, Ala., comprise a triad of state-of- the-art facilities that will collectively enable Tuskegee University's agricultural teaching, innovation and engagement programs to productively focus on the research and education at the knowledge frontier.

The three facilities will also substantially expand the university's assistance to farmers and rural communities, targeted toward increasing jobs, profitability and sustainability.

According to Hill, Tuskegee University, as with many academic institutions, will continue to be a trusted, neutral, and objective source of unbiased information on complex scientific and social issues, including bio-safety and regulatory testing, trade and labeling issues, socio-economics and ethics aspects of new technologies, relevance to food security and global development.

"We take pride in the work plant scientists and breeders around the world are doing every day to help farmers get more out of every acre while using the world's natural resources more efficiently," said Robb Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer.

"We're also proud to support projects like Tuskegee University's Plant Biotechnology Research Laboratories that have the potential to transform a local community. These labs will provide unlimited educational opportunities in plant science for our world's next generation of researchers and biologists."

Conrad Bonsi (plant breeder/plant pathologist) and Channapatna Prakash (plant geneticist) said the facility will enhance the university's agricultural training and partnerships exemplified by current projects in India, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Nepal, Tanzania, Costa Rico and other countries. Marceline Egnin (plant biotechnologist) noted that the facility would serve teachers in the Black Belt region and beyond in helping to enhance their knowledge and understanding of science, agriculture, biology, and technology.

The team that collaboratively developed the research and engagement agenda of the Plant Biotechnology Laboratory Wing includes: Hill, Prakash, Bonsi, Egnin, Guohuo He, Desmond Mortley, Jesse Jaynes, Miles Robinson, Jacqueline Jackson, and Luther Williams.

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