The 40 Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) interns at the NC Research Campus (NCRC) presented the results of their summer of research in an August 5 symposium sponsored by the NC Biotechnology Center.
Through P2EP, a STEM-based workforce development program, the interns studied pathways in blueberries, strawberries, oats and broccoli that produce health-enhancing bioactive compounds. This summer, they contributed to the development of the genetic maps of the crops being studied and a knowledge base of genetic data under development as part of P2EP. Interns represented 12 colleges and universities and two high schools.
During the symposium, Camry Wagner, Kannapolis-native and a graduate of UNC Wilmington, won first place in the educational category for her research on L-ascorbic acid in strawberries. Burley Levette III of Whitsett, NC won first place in the scientific category for his research into the anti-inflammatory properties of broccoli varieties. Levette atttends Winston-Salem State University.
John Hopkins University student Michael Good of Charlotte received an honorable mention for his research into oats. Graduate students Scott Smith, Weston Bussler and Samantha Case, all from NC State University, were also recognized.
Throughout the summer the P2EP interns worked in teams led by a graduate student and an NCRC scientist who served as principal investigator. P2EP graduate students will carry the research forward as part of their work toward doctorate degrees and in preparation for the next class of interns next summer. Several P2EP interns will take on new roles as interns in laboratories across the NCRC.
Other interns will take their training in advanced topics of genomic association analysis and mapping, bioinformatics and laboratory techniques back to school with them this fall.
“P2EP was nothing that I expected it to be. The amount that I learned over the summer was beyond anything that I could have imagined,” said Mason Forest, who is from Kannapolis and attends UNC Chapel Hill. “All of the computer work, JMP Genomics, learning about various plants like broccoli and oats and the health benefits ̶ I did not expect to learn any of that. The educational value of the program has been outstanding.”
Forest is planning on a future in cancer research. He spent the summer studying avenanthramides, a compound found in oats that has preventative affects against cancer. “P2EP has changed my perspective on cancer research. I thought I’d just be looking at cancer cells. Now when I get to do cancer research, I can look at plants and people and put two and two together.”
“P2EP uses the best talent, instrumentation and facilities to find answers to three questions. What bioactive compounds do these plants produce? How do they produce them? What is the impact on human health?” explained Mary Ann Lila, PhD, a member of the P2EP leadership team and the director of the NC State Plants for Human Health Institute at the NCRC. “We don’t have nearly enough scientific answers to these questions yet, but P2EP is a driving force to find them.”
P2EP is made possible by the generous support of Cabarrus Economic Development, Catawba College, the David H. Murdock Research Institute, Dole Foods, the Duke Energy Foundation, General Mills, Holiday Inn Express-Kannapolis/Associated Hotel Groups, Johnson C. Smith University, NC State University, Pfeiffer University, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Turner Construction, UNC General Administration, UNC Charlotte and Winston-Salem State University.
For more information, visit www.p2ep.org.