Scientific discoveries — like a recently published study showing blueberry compounds’ potential to help prevent Parkinson’s — beg more fundamental questions about fruit and vegetables. Such as what compounds do these plants make? And how do they make them?
These are the questions being tackled by the young scientific minds participating in the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) – a groundbreaking, $1.9 million, collaborative research program bringing together local industry as well as university and college partners located at the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC). Forty students from twelve universities and colleges and two high schools are spending the summer working with NCRC’s lead scientists in the field and at the Dole Nutrition Research Lab (the scientific research arm of the Dole Nutrition Institute) under the leadership of Dole Vice President Dr. Nick Gillitt.
Dole is partnering with other food companies and universities to give P2EP students the chance to work with leading researchers from academia and industry to gain hands-on experiences to help prepare them for future careers in scientific research. “Knowledge is power,” says Gillitt, “and we’re empowering the next generation of plant scientists to help unlock the full potential of fruits and vegetables so that healthier crops and foods can play a bigger role in helping people live longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives.” The students’ research into plant pathways and contributions to a genomic knowledge base build on the work of the first class of P2EP students studying broccoli, oats, strawberries — and blueberries. As P2EP continues to grow, more fruits and vegetables will be added.