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An Interdisciplinary Research-based Education Program for Engaging Plant/Agriculture Sciences, Chemical Sciences, and Engineering Students (iREP-4-PACE) at Minority Institutions

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Sharanabasaweshwara Asundi Old Dominion University

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Sharan Asundi, a native of INDIA, is a Ph.D. from University of Florida working as an Assistant Professor of Space Systems Engineering in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU). Currently, he is engaged in several teaching and research activities, largely focused on furthering the Space Systems Engineering Program at ODU. He has engaged in research collaboration with NASA Goddard as a Science Collaborator and has been awarded grants by the U.S. Air Force, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture to research Magnetic Mapping of Pico/Nano/Micro-Satellites and study the impact of magnetic field exposure on plant germination, growth. Dr. Asundi teaches courses in Space Systems Engineering and is actively engaged in collaboration with academic institutions in India. As part of invited visits, Dr. Asundi has conducted several short courses and workshops in Systems Engineering Based Design of PNMSats.

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Gregory C. Bernard Tuskegee University

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Gregory C. Bernard, Ph.D., is a molecular biologist concentrating in the areas of plant and animal pathology.
His research interests are developing nanobiopesticides for agricultural pest management, elucidating biomagnetics in plant growth and development, and transcriptome profiling of plants to identify molecular factors of disease resistance. He currently serves as a Co-PI on USDA-funded undergraduate plant breeding training program and a gene-editing (CRISPR/Cas 9) project with Dr. Marceline Egnin et al. Dr. Bernard has co-established the caprine research unit at N.C. A&T S.U (Dr. Mulumebet Worku) and, is actively working towards improving sustainability in small-scale farming production for local crop producers as well as infrastructure enhancement of the George Washington Carver Experimental Research Station capacity via USDA funding and faculty team collaboration.

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Willard E. Collier Tuskegee University

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Dr. Willard E. Collier is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Tuskegee University (TU). He is actively involved in Molecular Farming education and research as a transdisciplinary platform that enhances recruitment and persistence of undergraduate STEM majors. Along with Dr. Mortley from Agricultural Sciences at TU, he helped establish the Tuskegee University Medicinal Plant Garden. Dr. Collier has organized and hosted Medicinal Plants: A Healthy Supplement to the Chemistry Curriculum workshops at Tuskegee University that have drawn college chemistry professors from across the nation. Dr. Collier and five other co-PIs were awarded a Seed Grant from Tuskegee University titled “Engaging Agriculture, Biology, and Chemistry Students Through Interdisciplinary Medicinal Plant Research Across the Curriculum”. Dr. Collier and Dr. Chastity Bradford, a TU biology professor, were also awarded a grant titled, “Investigating the Enhancement of Angiotensin 1-7 by Hibiscus sabdariffa as a Novel Therapeutic Strategy for the Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension” from The Herb Society of America. Dr. Collier’s other grants have included “Chemistry for the Future of Water Sustainability” from The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc. (role as PI) and an NSF grant titled “Targeted Infusion Project: Infusing Inquiry-Based Green Chemistry into Undergraduate Laboratory Courses via Silver Recycling in a Closed Loop, Multi-course Process” (role as Co-PI).

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An interdisciplinary Research-based Education Program for Engaging Plant/Agriculture sciences, Chemical sciences and Engineering students (iREP-4-PACE) is envisioned with the underlying intent to improve Tuskegee University's (TU’s) STEM retention through the introduction of interdisciplinary, guided, inquiry experiments focused on the production of high-value chemicals from plants. At large, chemicals are synthesized from petroleum resources and it is well established that the continued extraction of these resources is detrimental to the environment. On the contrary, synthesizing chemicals from “plant factories” may be a boon to the environment and have a negative carbon footprint. The program uses three initiatives: a) expanded professional development activities for developing, teaching inquiry-based lectures and experiments, b) inclusion of sustainable high-value chemical production from plants across the laboratory curriculum, and c) increase of student hands-on access, competency with instrumentation and cutting-edge techniques. The overarching goal of the iREP-4-PACE program is to engage a cohort of undergraduates from plant/agriculture sciences, chemical sciences, and engineering disciplines in the research, education of engineering chemicals from plants of high commercial and medicinal value. The program will educate the undergraduates in engineering environment friendly chemicals. The year-long program will train students in seeking/learning the interdisciplinary knowledge, techniques of molecular synthesis of plant-based chemicals and in doing so, it will train the students in broadly applicable research methods such as literature review, instrument training, basic statistical analysis, and proposal writing. The article describes the design of the iREP-4-PACE program and activities conducted to gauge the interest of potential participants.

Asundi, S., & Bernard, G. C., & Collier, W. E. (2019, June), An Interdisciplinary Research-based Education Program for Engaging Plant/Agriculture Sciences, Chemical Sciences, and Engineering Students (iREP-4-PACE) at Minority Institutions Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32074

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