Thursday, July 24, 2014

FAMU student scientist first to clone muscadine grape gene

FAMU College of Agriculture and Food Sciences student Jasmine A. Hall is the first young scientist
to clone the Flavanone 3' Hydroxylase (F3’H) gene from muscadine grapes

Hall’s groundbreaking accomplishment is a part of ongoing research at FAMU’s Center of Viticulture and Small Fruit Research that has uncovered the multiple health benefits of the super food.

“Muscadine grapes, or ‘bullets,’ are a common fruit that many people in the South grew up eating,” said Hall, a fourth-year food science student. “This research enables us to capitalize on the nutritional benefits of the muscadine grape, which has one of the highest antioxidant levels amongst fruits.”

Hall is also among the first scientists to deposit sequences for the cloned F3’H gene in the National Center for Biotechnology Information Genebank. As a young pioneer in this area of research, Halls efforts are poised to aid in the production of nutraceuticals that will be made available to consumers in the future. She is also in the process of writing a manuscript on her findings to be published in the near future.

According to Anthony Ananga, FAMU researcher associate and food biotechnologist, Hall’s accomplishments are especially significant because she completed Ph.D. or professional level research while only an undergraduate student.

“I am very impressed with Jasmine,” said Ananga, one of Hall’s research advisors. “She is exceptional and among the best research students I have worked with. She is a trailblazer and a very determined and promising researcher.”

Hall’s research talents have garnered her an upcoming summer internship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services. She is also a National USDA 1890 Scholar, which provides her with scholarship dollars, research-related internships and an opportunity to work with the USDA upon graduation.

Hall was named among the top two researchers during the 2014 Ecology, Environmental and Earth Science Poster Competition at the Emerging National Researchers Conference (ENR), held in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. The conference was sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

According to Hall, her passion for food science stems back to her Louisiana upbringing.

“I’m originally from Louisiana, and growing up in Louisiana I learned really quickly that food is more than just nutrition for us there.” Hall said. “Our food is a part of our culture, it’s how we socialize, and it’s what we live by.”

FAMU Professor Neil James introduced Hall, who originally planned to become a doctor, to food science and its significance.

“When I first transferred to FAMU, I was a biology major and was taking a nutrition class when I met Professor James, who is my faculty advisor now,” Hall said. “He explained what food science was, and how it not only is a career that will allow you to make money, but it is a career that can literally change the world. Ever since that conversation, I was sold.”

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