Brown Graduate Fellows Awardees

March 23, 2018

The Brown Graduate Fellowship has been awarded to two Agronomy Graduate students, Qi Mu and Mauricio Tejera. The Brown Graduate Fellowship is to be used to strategically advance ISU research in the areas of study that are governed by the Valentine Hammes Family and Leopold Hammes Brown Family Trust.  The areas of study include science, agriculture, and space science. The preference is to fund Ph.D. students, although exceptional M.S. students will be considered.


Brown Graduate Fellowship Awardee

Mauricio Tejera, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Dr. Heaton’s lab, has been awarded a Brown Graduate Fellowship of $10,000 for 2018-19. Mauricio’s research advances our understanding of perennial energy grasses, a potentially transformative category of crops new to Iowa, using Miscanthus × giganteus as a model. While a decline in yield with stand age is commonly reported in perennial crops, conventional experimental designs lack statistical power to accurately characterize temporal growth dynamics. Mauricio’s research pioneers a new experimental approach, called REplicated PLAnting Year (REPLAY), which includes planting year as a treatment in the experiment. This allows stand age effects to be elucidated separately from planting year conditions and growing season effects.

Decreased nutrient supply is often considered a cause for yield decline. Mauricio is conducting a M. × giganteus nitrogen trial using a REPLAY experimental design to understand the mechanistic basis of N yield response in perennial crops. This approach is long overdue in M. x giganteus where N fertilization has been widely studied but results remain inconclusive. He investigates how different physiological traits are affected by N addition and how these affects translate into changed yields. His work has the potential to enable more detailed crop growth model parameterization to better predict yield and the economic return expected from N fertilization.

During his time in Iowa State University Mauricio has presented his results at several conferences and discussed his findings with M. x giganteus growers and practitioners at multiple field days. He has also taught AGRON 212 for two semesters and served as AGSC officer for two years. After the completion of his degree he would like to pursue for an academic career (fingers crossed!).


Brown Graduate Fellowship Awardee

Qi Mu, a second-year plant breeding Ph.D. student, is awarded a Brown Graduate Fellowship of $10,000 for 2018-19. Qi’s research in Professor Jianming Yu’s lab focuses on cloning the gene involved in plant height in sorghum and maize, and understanding its molecular mechanism. This project has made significant progress in two years contributed by Qi’s hard work. Qi’s second project is evaluating and understanding two QTLs’ dynamic contributions to plant height heterosis. This project will be further studied by utilizing high-throughput phenotyping and genomic selection. Qi has contributed to another project involving genetic and environment interaction on flowering time, and the manuscript is close to be published. Qi has made significant contribution to plant breeding and genetics by publishing a first-author paper on cloning a tomato fruit weight gene in PLoS Genetics from her M.S. thesis research in Ohio State University. She also co-
authored a review paper in Frontiers in Plant Science, and this paper is highly cited (47 times based on Google Scholar).

Qi has attended 10 conferences to present her research since her M.S. study at Ohio State University. So far, she has maintained a perfect GPA of 4.0 after taking 20 course credits at Iowa State University. Besides serving the speaker committee in plant breeding symposium, Qi volunteered her time to help other students in homework and projects. She also supervised undergraduate and help new graduate students in Dr. Yu’s program, and they all spoke highly of her.