UC Berkeley’s Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) program provides funding to undergraduates to work in collaboration with esteemed scientists across campus. Yunru Peng, a rising senior and Microbial Biology major, received a SPUR grant of $2000 to spend the summer spearheading a genome engineering project as part of the IGI’s agricultural research.
When applying for a SPUR grant, students can either join a faculty-initiated project or propose their own project. Yunru successfully applied to SPUR with her student-initiated project, “Enhancing soy’s resistance to the Asian soybean rust pathogen by site-specific gene insertion.” She will conduct her research under the mentorship of IGI Scientific Director of Agriculture Brian Staskawicz and postdoc Bastian Minkenberg.
Asian soybean rust is a common fungal infection that causes serious global yield loss. Yunru’s project aims to insert genes that increase resistance into a soy cultivar using CRISPR genome editing technology. This site-specific insertion promises a fast and precise way to create disease-resistant plants to feed the ever-growing world population.