Although nitrogen makes up over 70% of the Earth’s atmosphere and is essential to all forms of life, atmospheric nitrogen is unavailable to living organisms until it has been biochemically converted into amino acids, nucleic acids and other essential elements by the process of nitrogen fixation. Leguminous plants have root nodules that do this naturally and thereby provide 33% of human nutrition in the world.
Dr. Julia Frugoli of the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry uses molecular genetics and Medicago truncatula to clone and analyze genes involved in nodule expression in plants. The long term research goal is to transfer the genes that have nitrogen-fixing capacity to food crops that don’t—including corn and rice. The result would give farmers the ability to grow plants without nitrogen fertilizer and the results could dramatically increase the world’s food supply.
Packaging is a $200 billion industry worldwide and Clemson University is home to one of the world’s leading academic departments for research, design and product innovation. The Department of Packaging Science specializes in working with industry on the research and development of sustainable products to wrap, enclose, move, seal, and protect the trillions of dollars of goods that make up the global economy. In addition to the existing Newman Hall Sonoco Packaging Science Laboratory and the DuPont Package Evaluation Laboratory, the department recently opened The Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics and the Cryovac Flavourmark® Retort Laboratory.
The 2009 opening of the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics in the brand new Harris A. Smith Building was heralded by industry as a major advancement for the future. The Institute is positioned to be a leader in defining how products will be designed, perceived, consumed and marketed. Students will have a unique opportunity to study, conduct research, and interact with industry leaders in this state-of-the-art facility. The Institute is a collaboration with the Department of Graphic Communications in the College of Business & Behavioral Science.
“Clemson University students will be responsible for developing the food packaging of tomorrow, so it is important that we help provide them with a hands-on experience,” said Jean-Marie Demeautis, president of Sealed Air’s Cryovac® Food Solutions. In collaboration with the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition, faculty, students and industry participants have available a full-range of kitchens, food testing rooms and a state-of-the-art package testing facility. “There are only a handful of institutions nationwide that focus on the science of food packaging and Clemson University is one of them,” said Dr. Scott Whiteside, Associate Director of the Center for Flexible Packaging.
Human activities in the sea are triggering a rapid and unprecedented decline in the natural resources of the ocean. Dr. Amy Moran, a marine biologist in the Department of Biological Sciences, studies the impact of human activities on early life stages of marine animals in diverse climates. A recent NSF-funded trip to McMurdo Sound in Antarctica allowed her research team to study the effects of extreme temperatures on the larval and embryonic life cycles of certain marine animals. Her research also focuses on the fundamental evolutionary and ecological forces that have driven the tremendous diversity of marine organisms.
Dr. Xiuping Jiang, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sponsors, is developing bioprocessing methods to inhibit the growth of Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 on the farm and during food transportation and processing. Dr. Jiang and her research team are using state-of-the-art bacteriophage methods, which may be effective against many strains of drug-resistant pathogens and could reduce the use of low-dose antibiotics.
In a global economy, safety and security of the food supply are paramount to international commerce. Dr. Annel Greene’s research uses thermal processing to destroy pathogens such as the Avian flu virus during the breakdown and processing of animal by-products. A graduate student in Dr. Greene’s lab is shown above.