MSU graduate, doctoral candidate named STAR Fellow


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Posted: 8/27/2007


A doctoral candidate in Mississippi State's College of Forest Resources is receiving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's STAR Fellowship.

Joshua P. Adams of Ruston, La., is among 65 graduate students--and the first from the university--named to the prestigious Science to Achieve Results Fellows Program. His award begins with the 2007-08 academic year and extends for the next three years.

Now in his second year of research, Adams is focusing on forest molecular genetics. Working with forestry assistant professor Cetin Yuceer, he is using the latest molecular techniques to modify trees for use in cleaning land sites contaminated with heavy metals that may cause cancer and other health problems.

Initiated by the EPA in 1995, the fellowship program is designed to encourage promising students to obtain advanced degrees and pursue careers in an environmental field. This goal is among major immediate and long-term missions of EPA to help protect the nation's public health and the environment.

Adams, who received an MSU master's degree in forestry in 2005, is among some 1,200 students honored with STAR Fellowships since the program began. He earlier graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in 2003.

Adams is using the poplar tree (genus Populus, and including cottonwoods, poplars and aspens, among others) for his study since its genome has been sequenced and transformation procedures have been refined, Yuceer said.

The genome is a full set of chromosomes that contains all the inheritable traits of an organism.

Yuceer said Adams' research seeks to develop a tree variety that quickly absorbs heavy metals and harnesses fluorescent energy transfer that enables it to monitor metal contamination in soil and water.

"If successful, this project is expected to provide a high-biomass species with an accumulation and monitoring phenotype which is pursuant to the goal of ensuring plant, animal and human safety," Yuceer emphasized.

As Adams' selection indicates, the EPA's fellowship program seeks to benefit both the public and private sectors by providing a steady stream of well-trained environmental specialists to meet society's environmental challenges. It also opens new environmental research in the areas of physical, biological, health, and social sciences, as well as engineering.