Susannah Gal, an associate professor of biology whose work in molecular genetics and cell biology could lead to more productive crops and advances in medicine, will be spending a sabbatical year conducting research in Europe with sponsorship from a Fulbright Scholar grant and a separate $72,941 grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
The nine-month USDA grant will sponsor Gal’s stay in Switzerland, where she will be working with Jean-Marc Neuhaus at the University of Neuchâtel. Gal studies proteases in plants. Proteases are enzymes that cleave peptide bonds during protein maturation and degradation. Although very well characterized outside the plant, the functions of these enzymes in the living organism are not well understood. While in Switzerland she plans to create markers for protease enyzmes that will be visible in a living plant. By using fluorescent proteins, Gal expects to be able to see when proteases are active or inactive in plant cells. She hopes this system will provide a means to study the in vivo changes in the enzymes, which will offer clues to their function in living plants.
Gal, whose research generally focuses on the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, will also spend three months is Portugal where she will collaborate with Carlos Faro, a researcher who studies proteases in thistle plants at the University of Coimbra. She expects to teach Faro’s laboratory colleagues how to create Arabidopsis plants that make his thistle enzyme. Using Arabidopsis to study the thistle enzyme would be preferable because the plant is easy to manipulate and grows very fast.
Gal’s work in Portugal will be funded by a Fulbright grant from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars. The Fulbright program was initiated in 1946 to promote international understanding and peace. Grants are made annually for a variety of educational activities, primarily teaching, advanced research and graduate study.