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Dr. Ross Sozzani, Associate Professor, Plant and Microbial Biology, NC State (link)
Dr. Cranos Williams, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director, EnBiSys Research Laboratory, NC State (link)
The projected global increase to 9 billion people by the year 2050 will impose significant challenges on our ability to produce enough food for the world’s population. Specific food security challenges include: 1) our inability to sense and quantify physical and chemical variables in the environment and in-planta across scales; 2) the lack of scalable data analytics and multi-scale models that transform concurrent datasets across multiple scales into decision making strategies for improving crop yield and minimizing crop loss; and 3) the lack of intelligent data cyber-infrastructures that efficiently integrate heterogeneous data, supporting the development of complex multi-scale biological models.
The complexity of these challenges, along with regional diversity and the continual pressures of a changing environment, requires the development of integrated engineered systems for improved on-farm decision support and custom solutions. To address these challenges, we are proposing the Engineering Research Center for Rapid Innovation in SystEms Engineering and Agricultural Sustainability (RiseEnAg).
The vision of RiseEnAg is to enable long-term global food security and safety through the development integrated engineered systems for improving the health of the plant (pre-harvest resilience), the health of the produce (post-harvest fruit quality), and consumer food safety. RiseEnAg will drive the fundamental research needed to enable the tools of innovation and discovery necessary in four key areas: 1) Sensors for monitoring a crop’s physical, biochemical, and molecular parameters; 2) Platforms that allow sensors to network over an internet-of-things backbone for data collection; 3) Multiscale crop modeling, data mining, and machine learning approaches, tailored to heterogeneous agricultural datasets; and 4) Cyberinfrastructure for integrating private and public datasets to enable information exchange.
We have assembled a diverse team across 7 universities (NC State, NC A&T, UF, UC Davis, UCSB, UMBC, and Duke) with faculty that have track records of convergent research, education, and outreach.
Dr. Cranos Williams is currently an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer engineering department at North Carolina State University and is the head of the EnBiSys Research Laboratory. Dr. Williams received his B.S. in electrical engineering from North Carolina A&T State University in 2001, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University in 2002 and 2008, respectively. Over his 10.5 years at NC State, Dr. Williams has developed a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary research program focused on advancing the comprehensive understanding of biomolecular pathways associated with plant growth, development, and adaptation. His research lab develops methodologies familiar to other areas of electrical and computer engineering (e.g. computational intelligence, system identification, nonlinear systems analysis and control, and signal processing) to model and predict the impact that genetic and environmental perturbations have on overall plant response.
Dr. Ross Sozzani joined NC State in 2013 as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in Synthetic and Systems Biology. An associate professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, Sozzani researches the molecular mechanisms that regulate stem cell fate specification and maintenance within the Arabidopsis root, and translates this knowledge to engineering plants with enhanced agronomic function using the tools of synthetic biology. Her goal is to gain a coherent qualitative and quantitative understanding of stem cell maintenance at the system level. In addition to revealing the molecular pathways that stem cells employ, this research will help to better understand why stem cells, in both plants and animals, give rise to specialized cells at all.