Dr. Brian Kvitko has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). His 5 year research plan will focus on plants and how their immune systems respond to potential diseases. His long-term objective is to understand the bacterial mechanisms that are targeted by the plant’s immune system. One of the areas of focus is sulfur, an essential element for life. When plants activate their immune systems, it appears to limit available sulfur, Kvitko said. This blocks the bacteria’s ability to grow in plant tissue.
“We know that plants have specialized receptors that let them detect invaders and pathogens. We know they can activate a defense response that protects them. What we don’t know is exactly what that means. What is the defense response and how does it suppress microbes?” Kvitko said. “Those are some of the objectives we want to really focus on during this research.”
The NSF CAREER grant also places emphasis on science education. Kvitko plans to develop research-based learning materials to distribute to local middle schools. He will teach plant and plant-disease science to students from all backgrounds, not just science majors to enhance students’ knowledge of plant pathology.
For more information on this award please go to