Faculty member receives significant research grant

A $150,000 grant has been awarded to assistant professor Derek Gingerich to continue his microbiology research project.

In his third year of teaching at UW-Eau Claire, Gingerich is being funded for the next three years to carry out research and laboratory work with Arabidopsis Thaliana, which is a weed in the same family as the mustard plant, he said.

“The money for the grant is from stimulus money,” Gingerich said, which is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “It’s actually the first stimulus funding the university has gotten for anything.”

In his research, Gingerich found that if he disrupts two genes in the genome of Arabidopsis, “the plants become overly sensitive to red wavelengths of light,” he said, which leads them to become more tolerant of shading conditions. “What I don’t know exactly is why, and that is what my grant deals with,” he said.

Gingerich has gathered three UW-Eau Claire students to help him with his research. Students Nathan Tisdell, Brandon Blaisdell and Tim Lauer all have their own separate research projects that are part of the overall project.

“It’s been great working with Dr. Gingerich and the rest of the research team,” said Lauer, a senior microbiology major who has been working with Gingerich on the research project for a little over a year and a half now.

The National Science Foundation received portions of money from the stimulus package and one of the ways they are using that stimulus money is by funding grant proposals they think are worth supporting, Gingerich said.

“As an institution that’s looking at those decreasing state funding and trying not to increase student tuition and fees, getting that external grant fund is another way of bringing funding into the institution,” said Karen Halvholm, assistant vice chancellor for research.

“I think, for my program, the most recent data I’ve seen is 2007 data, and in my program, the success rate was 17 percent,” Gingerich said. “So 17 percent of the proposals that were submitted actually received funding. Considering that success rate, I was pretty thrilled to get the grant.”

“Tying this together with all the classes I’ve taken for my major furthers my understanding from classes,” Lauer said.

Gingerich said the money from the grant goes toward paying for supplies, equipment for the lab and wages for himself and the students working with him during the school year. The grant also pays for him and one of his student researchers to travel to one scientific conference every year, he said. The American Society of Plant Biologists, which is having its annual meeting in Montreal next summer, is a likely destination, he said.

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, UW-Eau Claire received $1,768,000 dollars in grant funds specifically for research, Halvholm said.

Gingerich said the research comes out of the post-doctoral research he did while in Madison four years ago.

Although the lab research in Madison is not funded by the grant, Gingerich said he maintains a current collaboration with that lab and a researcher there who is also working on the same project with him. He said that it is likely they will publish their research together in the future.

“The grant is great, it allows me to continue my research,” Gingerich said. “It gives opportunity for students here to do