UT Tyler Awarded $100,000 NASA Grant
Dr. Shawana Tabassum to help NASA better understand how plants respond in space
TYLER, Texas (March 21, 2023) – The University of Texas at Tyler announced that it has been awarded a $100,000 grant by NASA to advance the fundamental understanding of plants in spaceflight-like environments. Dr. Shawana Tabassum, UT Tyler assistant professor of electrical engineering, will serve as the principal investigator for the project, “Leaf Sensor Network for In Situ and Multiparametric Analysis of Crop Stressors.”
The objective is to better understand plants’ responses to stressors in those type of environments using a wireless, multivariable leaf sensor. Tabassum’s research focuses on flexible and wearable sensors, electronics, micro/nano-optics, microfluidic devices, and their applications in plant sciences, biomedicine and sustainable environments.
“Our central hypothesis is that real-time data collected on plant responses can be used to determine the fundamental ways plants interact with microclimatic conditions associated with living in space,” said Tabassum.
Results from this research will enable scientists to predict crop performance in spaceflight conditions and support future experiments aboard the International Space Station designed to increase understanding of plant growth under microgravity conditions, Tabassum added.
“Our technology has competitive advantages over the existing methods of conducting molecular analyses of plants by providing continuous and in situ monitoring capabilities, and multi-parametric detection of stress-related biomolecules,” she said. “It may also be able to assist in the identification of plant species that can best adapt to the unique growing conditions in space.”
UT Tyler will collaborate with Texas A&M University-College Station, as project activities will be conducted at the Texas A&M University AgriLife Research facility.
“This award recognizes the high quality and innovation of Dr. Tabassum’s work,” said Dr. Steven Idell, UT Tyler senior vice president for research. “We are extremely proud that her contributions will assist NASA in their efforts.”
Tabassum, who joined the UT Tyler engineering faculty in 2020, most recently earned the 2023 Curtis W. McGraw Research Award (Non-PhD Granting Program Category) from the American Society for Engineering Education. The award recognizes outstanding work by young engineering college researchers.
NASA leads a Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes working with U.S. industry, international partners and academia to develop new technology, and send science research and soon humans to explore the Moon on Artemis missions that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. In addition to those major missions, the agency shares its information in the hopes to make life better for people worldwide. For more information, visit nasa.gov/.
With a mission to improve educational and health care outcomes for East Texas and beyond, UT Tyler offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs to 10,000 students. UT Tyler recently merged with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (now known as UT Tyler Health Science Center). Through its alignment with UT Tyler Health Science Center (HSC) and UT Health East Texas, UT Tyler has unified these entities to serve Texas with quality education, cutting-edge research and excellent patient care. Classified by Carnegie as a doctoral research institution and by U.S. News & World Report as a national university, UT Tyler has campuses in Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston.