STEM student’s research discovers plant’s ability to smell

STEM student’s research discovers plant’s ability to smell

A Kennesaw State senior took home the Top Poster award at the College of Science and Mathematics’ Birla Carbon Symposium Aug. 29 for her research on a certain plants’ ability to smell other plants.

Open to all STEM undergraduate majors, the Birla Carbon research program provides $4,000 stipends for ten students to pursue their research interests in STEM over the course of a summer. Rebecca Webster’s research found that the parasitic plant Harper’s Dodder can select its host based solely on smell.

“These Dodder plants are a huge agricultural pest, and they really like tomato plants, onions and alfalfa,” Webster said. “Not a lot is known about this foraging behavior in the Dodders, so I wanted to try to find out which genes are involved.”

For the duration of the summer, Webster was paired with faculty member and mentor Joel McNeal, assistant professor of biology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology.

“She wasn’t just handed an existing project at the beginning of summer but, instead, helped start a new project for which she was fully involved in the initial experimental design,” McNeal said.

After the summer term is completed, students can compete at the Birla Carbon Symposium with an additional $2,000 stipend for travel expenses to present their research at a regional or national conference of their choosing.

The program is funded and sustained by Birla Carbon, the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of carbon black ingredients.

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