PULLMAN, Wash. — The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded Washington State University a $430,000 grant to construct an Environmental Plant Research Laboratory. The sophisticated lab will permit plant researchers to conduct basic studies ranging from how plants are responding to global climate changes to how specific genes and proteins may alter the nutrient value of food crops.
The WSU facility is expected to be one of the premier plant biology research facilities in the nation, according to Howard Grimes, lead researcher in the lab. “Being able to study the effects of ultraviolet irradiation on plant growth, using light intensities of near full sunlight, will allow scientists, for the first time, to begin to understand the biochemical, physiological and ecological consequences of global climate changes,” he said. “Although surprising, this technology is not readily available anywhere and, thus, we will be able to pursue these important questions using plants grown under true physiological conditions for the first time.”
The lab will be equipped with 23 computer-controlled environmental growth chambers, critical infrastructure for modern plant research. Such chambers permit researchers to precisely control environmental parameters such as radiation, atmospheric gases, temperature, humidity and other variables that affect plant growth. The WSU facility will be used by more than 60 research faculty and students in three WSU colleges and ten departments.
Murdock’s pledge of funding has permitted the National Science Foundation to increase the level of Academic Research Infrastructure Program support it is providing for the project from $250,000 to $367,000. Additional funding for the project is being provided by WSU. Preliminary work on the lab in Eastlick Hall has already begun and is expected to be complete by January.
The Murdock Trust was created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, co-founder of Tektronix, Inc. in 1975. The trust funds education, scientific research and other projects that enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest.