UF plant geneticist only Florida researcher to receive special DOE funding
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida plant geneticist Matias Kirst is the only researcher from the state of Florida to be named a recipient of U.S. Department of Energy special funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Kirst, of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and School of Forest Resources and Conservation, will receive $873,000 over five years to conduct a radically new genetic analysis of poplar trees—an effort that may help harness the trees as a sustainable and economical fuel source.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced earlier this month that 69 recipients had been selected from nearly 1,800 applications nationwide to receive a total of $85 million.
This is the first such funding from the DOE’s Early Career Research Program, a program designed to “bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years.”
The recognition is far from the first that Kirst has received, however. Last year, Kirst and fellow UF plant geneticist Gary Peter received a three-year, $643,000 grant from the Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy grants program to study the function of a poplar gene that plays an important role in determining poplar trees’ woody composition.
“Dr. Kirst represents the finest of our university researchers,” said IFAS dean for research Mark McLellan. “The quality of his science will deliver new discoveries and yield knowledge that can make a difference. His passion for his science is tangible as soon as you engage him in conversation.”
This new funding will support Kirst’s innovative method for performing a technique called “association mapping,” which will compare different poplar trees to find out which genes contribute to properties important to bioenergy production.
Eventually, Kirst and his colleagues hope to create trees with qualities ideal for use as fuels such as cellulosic ethanol.
“This is a huge honor and a vote of confidence in the promise this work holds for the future,” Kirst said.