Zhu, Maldani to present at prestigious American Society of Plant Biologists Conference

North America’s largest plant science meeting gathers global researchers from 50 countries
Date: July 13, 2023

Fayetteville State University Professor Lieceng Zhu Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Fellow Mohamed Maldani, Ph.D.

Pictured: Fayetteville State University Professor Lieceng Zhu Ph.D. (left) and Postdoctoral Fellow Mohamed Maldani, Ph.D. (right)

Fayetteville, N.C. (July 13, 2023) — Extreme weather due to climate change negatively affects air and water quality, animal habitats, and food supplies, and it also produces volatile, unpredictable and severe weather events worldwide. Combined with the threat of insects, these conditions seriously jeopardize crops and further threaten food production and security.

Fayetteville State University’s (FSU) Lieceng Zhu Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biological and Forensic Science in the Lloyd College of Health, Science and Technology (LCHST), Postdoctoral Fellow Mohamed Maldani, Ph.D., and Zhu’s research team have been investigating the impact of extreme heat on wheat’s resistance to insects for several years with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). To date, Zhu has secured three NSF grants totaling nearly $1 million to advance her research initiatives.

This fall, Zhu and Maldani will present their findings at the highly anticipated 2023 Plant Biology Conference in Savannah, Georgia, August 5-9, thanks to the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)/HSF Historically Black Colleges & Universities Travel Award.

Funded by the NSF, the ASPB travel award supports outstanding HBCU researchers in the field and provides transportation, accommodations, registration, meals, and activities over the course of the conference. The ASPB travel award program aims to increase the attendance of early career scientists at the annual meeting by supporting those with financial constraints. A primary goal is to increase diversity and inclusion among plant biology attendees by expanding the participation of underrepresented groups.

Recipients were selected via an application process that included submitting a curriculum vita; a statement describing current research interests; a statement explaining how attending the meeting will benefit the participant; a cover letter describing any other sources of travel support; as well as a letter of recommendation from an advisor/mentor for early career researchers.

The ASPB annual conference is North America’s largest plant science meeting and brings together colleagues from around the world to connect and share the latest scientific breakthroughs. In addition to plenary and concurrent symposia, the meeting features technical and career development workshops and myriad networking opportunities.

Zhu and Maldani will share their latest scientific discoveries and advances while also fostering engagement and collaboration with scientists and professionals from over 50 countries.

“We are honored to be presenting our research on a global platform such as the ASPB Plant Biology Conference,” Zhu said. “It is crucial that scientists come together to share their work and discoveries, foster collaboration and advance innovation that addresses critical global challenges like threats to the world’s food supply. Support through the ASPB/HSF Historically Black Colleges & Universities Travel Award ensures that contributions from a broad array of scientists and institutions are recognized and included in the collective scholarship and the worldwide solution.”

Zhu’s and Maldani’s presentations will highlight the significant findings of their year-long scientific endeavor, which also included contributions from five FSU undergraduates and a high school student research intern.

They will present two posters: “Impact of Phytohormones on Wheat Resistance to Hessian Fly Under Heat Stress” and “High-Temperature Stress and Resistance of Wheat Plants to Hessian Fly Infestation.” These address how increased temperatures make crop plants — namely bread wheat — more vulnerable to insect pests, leading to grain yield loss, and examine whether externally applied plant hormones can provide certain protection to wheat plants against the Hessian fly when plants are subjected to high-temperature stress.

“Drs. Zhu and Maldani are prolific investigators whose work will have a profound impact on agriculture/food production and food security, especially in at-risk and vulnerable populations,” said Afua Arhin, Ph.D., LCHST dean.“They are exemplary ambassadors for their work and our university; we are fortunate to have them represent FSU at such a significant forum.”

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