UW-Stevens Point soybean researcher receives $150,000 grant
Biology Associate Professor Devinder Sandhu works in
his plant genetics lab with pre-medical student
Christopher Navarro.

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will receive $150,000 of a $450,000 grant from the United Soybean Board for research led by Associate Professor of Biology Devinder Sandhu. The plant geneticist is renowned for work to improve soybean yield and quality.

The three-year grant begins March 1. At least 10 undergraduate students at UW-Stevens Point will work with Sandhu on this project aimed at improving genetic traits in soybeans.

The United States leads the world in producing soybeans, the second largest crop in Wisconsin. To stay competitive in the world soybean market, plant geneticists look for ways to produce soybeans with improved oil quality, sugar and protein content.

To improve soybean seed traits, Sandhu and his student researchers must first identify and characterize genes that control various traits. Sandhu was part of a group of scientists from all over the world who sequenced the entire soybean genome in 2010.

In 2013, his research confirmed that a “jumping gene” induced random mutations in soybean genes resulting in undesirable traits. He used “jumping gene” to characterize several soybean genes.


The next step is to test this on a larger scale. An estimated 100,000 plants will be grown at a collaborating research facility, Iowa State University. Students in Sandhu’s plant genetics lab at UW-Stevens Point will use several genetic and molecular approaches to determine the links between genes and characteristics.

“Knowing which genes control specific traits, we will be able to develop high yielding, disease- resistant and nutritionally superior soybean varieties,” he said.

The project provides training and research experience for undergraduate students, preparing them for graduate school or future jobs. These student researchers present their work at national and international scientific meetings and publish their work in scientific journals, Sandhu said.

“This will be a great tool for scientific community working on soybeans. I am proud that UW-Stevens Point is a central player and leader in this cutting-edge research,” he said.


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