As U.S. farmers watch how spring markets develop, an electrical engineer at the University of Missouri-Rolla is getting a jumpstart on understanding the relationship between plant roots and their surrounding environment. His new devices may help unearth solutions to low crop yields and land pollution.
“The interaction between the plant roots and the surrounding media is the least understood and most challenging aspect of plant research,” says Dr. Chang-Soo Kim, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMR.
Kim will receive a projected $400,000 for his research during the next five years, as part of NSF’s program to support promising scientists early in their careers. The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career development of teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.
The funding will support Kim’s development of “horticulture-on-a-chip,” a microsystem that integrates 3-D sensor arrays with a miniature plant growth system. The device will monitor root zone oxygen distribution and could be used in nearly all aspects of root research, including metabolic engineering, plant stress physiology and plant pathology. If successful, the new microsystem would be a major technological breakthrough for root research efforts.
The CAREER Award is given to faculty members at the beginning of their academic careers and is one of NSF’s most competitive awards, placing emphasis on high-quality research and novel education initiatives.
Kim joined UMR in 2002 after serving as a research associate in the Biomedical Microsensors Laboratory at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He earned his bachelor of engineering, master of engineering and Ph.D. from Kyungpook National University, South Korea, in 1989, 1991 and 1997, respectively.