Sanjaya_WVSUWest Virginia State University (WVSU) has received $300,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to research seed storage compounds and bioenergy with the goal of enhancing crop growth on reclaimed surface mine lands.

“This National Science Foundation grant enables important research conducted right here in the heart of the Kanawha Valley to potentially address food sustainability and nutrition around the globe,” said Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins, President of West Virginia State University. “It is yet another example of the University’s research capabilities and showcases our tradition of serving our fellow friends and neighbors—both near and far.”

The competitive grant award will provide hands-on research and training for six undergraduate students and establish a collaborative partnership for faculty and graduate students with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“The National Science Foundation is a very competitive funding agency, and thus receiving such a grant is a recognition of both the caliber of scientists at State and the merit of the research being conducted,” said Dr. Orlando F. McMeans, WVSU’s vice president for research and public service. “The bioenergy-based research proposed in this grant endeavors to not only address the need for alternative fuels, but it also can contribute to the nutritional needs of a growing global population.”

The United Nations predicts that by the year 2050, the world’s population will grow by more than 9 billion, resulting in the need for an enhanced system of food production and supply. Therefore, the project is focused on creating robust, high-energy crops for changing environments, such as reclaimed surface mine lands.

“This research will advance knowledge in the field of plant biotechnology by characterizing for the first time previously unidentified mechanisms regulating seed storage compounds and unlock new and creative avenues for enhancing molecular engineering of plant crops,” said Dr. Sanjaya, director of WVSU’s Energy and Environmental Science Institute and the project’s lead scientist.

Sanjaya hopes the research will ultimately attract industry and academic partners to the region, enhancing economic development and workforce opportunities.