Colin Scanes, Plant Sciences Institute, (515) 294-5267
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute has hired three new faculty members in the plant sciences and bioinformatics.

Xiaoqui Huang is joining ISU's computer science department and the Institute's Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics as associate professor. Nicola Pohl joins ISU's chemistry department and the Institute's Center for Crops Utilization Research as assistant professor. Steve Whitham joins ISU's plant pathology department and the Institute's Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses as an assistant professor.

All faculty hired through the Plant Sciences Institute are full members of academic departments, said Colin Scanes, interim director of the Institute. In addition to their research programs, they will teach undergraduate and graduate courses.

Huang will conduct research on the analysis of DNA sequences and develop computer programs for plant genome research. Pohl, whose research area is reductive chemistry of carbohydrates, will work on using crops for biobased industrial products. Whitham will research host genes involved in supporting or restricting virus infections in plants.

Huang earned his master's and doctoral degrees in computer science at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. He was on the faculty at Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Mich., from 1990 to 1999. Since 1999, he has been associate professor at the Keck Graduate Institute of Life Sciences, Claremont, Calif., and principal scientist at Paracel Inc., Pasadena, Calif.

Pohl has been a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. since 1997. She earned her doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997 and her A.B. from Harvard-Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass., in 1991.

Whitham earned his master's (1992) and doctoral (1995) degrees in plant pathology from the University of California, Berkeley, and his bachelor's degree (1990) in agricultural biochemistry from Iowa State. From 1996 to 1999, Whitham was NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University, Pullman, and at Texas A&M University, College Station. For the past year, he has been a staff scientist at Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute, San Diego, Calif., where he was part of a research group using genomic and genetic approaches to characterize host/virus interaction in Arabidopsis.

Currently more than 100 faculty from 15 departments are associated with the eight centers of the Plant Sciences Institute, Scanes said.

The Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University consists of eight research centers. Its goal is to become one of the world's leading institutes for plant science research, education and unbiased research-based information. Researchers are developing ways to help feed the growing world population, strengthen human health and nutrition, improve crop quality and yield, foster environmental sustainability and expand the uses of plants for biobased products and bioenergy.


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