FORT WORTH, Texas (December 6, 2018) Doors opened today for the new Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) George C. and Sue W. Sumner Molecular and Structural Laboratory, adding unique dimension and depth to research education programs in plant systematics, or the biological classification of plants. The facility will house advanced molecular-level tools allowing BRIT’s plant scientists to conduct research and train the next generation of botanists who will answer fundamental questions about plant diversity and help solve environmental challenges.
A ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony with remarks from local leaders marked today’s occasion just months after an August 9 construction launch.
“The molecular and structural lab further supports BRIT’s research capabilities and our goals toward becoming a top-tier plant research and collaborative education organization,” said Dr. Ed Schneider, BRIT’s executive director. “Studying plants at the DNA level enhances the comparison of species and advances biodiversity exploration.”
Under educational and research agreements that have been signed with UTA, TCU, and Tarleton State University, the laboratory will also operate as a teaching facility promoting undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs. University professors and students will work alongside BRIT scientists. In addition, the laboratory allows BRIT to broaden its professional development opportunities for teachers in area school districts and expand ESTEM (environmental science, technology, engineering, and math) experiences within BRIT’s youth programs. BRIT will also work with corporate partners helping train the future workforce.
“This new state-of-the-art lab and teaching facility will provide an open exchange of research between BRIT scientists and Tarleton students and faculty,” said Tarleton State University President F. Dominic Dottavio. “Our strong emphasis on student and faculty engagement and BRIT’s passion for conservation and sustainability is an important partnership for making our world a better place.”
Prospective university-related projects include creating a DNA and genome bank of Texas plant species for conservation, assessing the genetic diversity of rare and endangered Texas plant populations to prevent their extinction, comparing genome diversity in crop plants and their wild relatives for plant breeding, sampling the genomes of plant communities to understand ecosystem functions, and discovering gene function for plant development, disease-resistance, and adaptation.
“This new molecular lab is going to greatly further BRIT’s push to become one of the leading plant research and education organizations in the region,” said Morteza Khaledi, dean of the UTA College of Science. “Because of our partnership with BRIT, the lab will also serve as an excellent teaching facility for our students and will allow our faculty to work alongside BRIT scientists to contribute to advances in emerging scientific fields.”
The BRIT laboratory will also be used on research projects with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department identifying and protecting rare and endangered native Texas plants.
“This plant research and teaching center continues to enhance the secondary level education opportunities for so many phytochemists and botanists throughout the nation, and will benefit the citizens of our city. As we begin the challenges of advanced molecular biology and delve into the structural enhancement of the large inventory of plants at our disposal, we serve the many academic interests of our local and national academic institutions. The citizens of Fort Worth and surrounding communities will soon benefit from this research,” said City of Fort Worth Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton.
The lab is located on the first floor of the BRIT building across from BRIT’s herbarium and will feature large windows facing the public space, giving visitors the ability to observe work being conducted by researchers and students.