News Archive

Faces of GIAR: Jyoti R. Behera

February 19, 2024


Grant: $1,000 in Fall 2023

Education level at the time of the grant: PhD student

Project Description: 
My primary objective in the proposed research was to gain insights into the metabolism of healthy oils within the avocado mesocarp, spotlighting the novel transcription factor WRINKLED2 (WRI2), which plays a pivotal role in the regulation of fatty acid synthesis. We previously demonstrated the ability of avocado WRI2 to induce storage oil synthesis in non-seed tissue, distinguishing its inability to do the same in the Arabidopsis seed tissue. By identifying the target genes transactivated by WRI2 and exploring synergies with other essential genes, I aim to enhance the synthesis of heart-healthy monounsaturated oils in plants traditionally considered oil-limited. I employed qRT-PCR and yeast-one-hybrid assay techniques to pinpoint the target genes of WRI2 in avocado mesocarp tissue. Our results revealed a similar promoter recognition sequence of WRI2. This revelation positions avocado WRI2 as a viable alternative to native WRIs, presenting an opportunity to enhance the production of health-conscious vegetable oils in diverse plant species. Leveraging these findings, our overarching goal is to engineer transgenic crop plants capable of yielding vegetable oils with a composition similar to that of avocado oil, promoting heart-healthy dietary choices.

How did the grant process or the project itself influence you as a scientist/researcher?
Writing the grant proposal turned out to be super helpful because it made me focus on what really mattered in my research. It forced me to express my ideas in a clear and simple way. Working on the grant also helped me get better at talking about my research. I learned how to make a strong pitch and introduce my work in a way that people could easily understand. While I was thinking about different topics for the grant, it sparked more ideas for my research. As a result, my advisor and I wrote another grant proposal for potential federal funding. 

What advice would you give to future applicants?

Write the grant proposal in simple language, focusing on the 'why' of your research in the background section. Keep it concise and accessible to a broad audience. Aim for clarity and motivation in the first few sentences to engage the reviewer. Avoid excessive technical details but provide enough depth beyond superficial explanations. Utilize two figures wisely to visually convey key ideas. Make sure your research's compelling motivation stands out to capture the reviewer's attention. 

Students may apply for Sigma Xi research grants by March 15 and October 1 annually at