Student Awarded Virginia Academy of Science Research Grant

Funding supports genetic diversity project for junior biology major.

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Junior biology major John Christman is the recipient of an undergraduate research grant from the Virginia Academy of Science to further his research on genetic diversity in apples. According to Dr. Janet Steven, Associate Professor of Biology and Christman's research adviser, domestic apple production involves grafting, which serves as a process of artificial cloning that does not promote genetic variation in apple populations. The grant will enable Christman to purchase supplies needed to determine the genetic makeup of multiple apple varieties and to develop an understanding of the level of their genetic diversity.

"There is an increasing recognition among plant biologists that crop diversity is important for the future of food production in the face of a growing world population," Steven says. "John’s research will contribute to our understanding of how much variation occurs within grafted varieties due to spontaneous mutations, and is an essential part of developing new varieties that are able to adapt to challenges such as pests, diseases and climate change."

Christman began this project under the mentorship of Steven through CNU's Summer Scholars program, which allows intellectually curious, motivated students to team with a professor on a compelling research question in a full-time, paid research assistantship. He will present the final results of his work at the Virginia Academy of Science meeting in May 2018.

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