The light-brown prairie grass that fills the greenhouse on the roof of Welch Hall might look plain, but the undergraduate students analyzing samples in the adjacent laboratory are working to maximize its full potential.
University researchers will receive $15 million in government grant funding to lead a national study on the biofuel potential of the switchgrass and panicgrass crops, housed in the rooftop greenhouse. Portions of the funding are earmarked for a Freshman Research Initiative course and undergraduate lab internships. Large-scale production of biofuels can reduce the climate change effects of fossil fuels, according to University researchers.
Thomas Juenger, a UT researcher who runs an integrative biology lab, will direct the research across the country. To rapidly develop a biofuel candidate, Juenger said his team will use genomic selection to reduce the time it takes to breed traits into the crop.