Narendra Singh, professor of biological sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research in India from August to December 2013 at SRM University. Singh's research and teaching involves the molecular biology of stress tolerance in plants, genetic manipulation of higher fungi, and edible vaccines that can be mixed with feed to ward off diseases that cause massive damage to the poultry industry. In India, he will teach and co-teach graduate courses in plant molecular biology and biotechnology, and offer a senior seminar course for undergraduate students. He plans to focus his research on the elucidation of mechanism of action of a plant protein he discovered in 1985 and named osmotin.
"This is an interesting protein which has many different roles depending upon its location within the plant cell," said Singh. "Although the sequences of amino acids in the proteins are very different, the folded, three-dimensional structure of osmotin is similar to human adiponectin, which plays an important role in fat and sugar metabolism in humans and mammals."
Singh will work with M. Parani, professor and head of the Department of Genomics and Genetic Engineering at SRM University. He will also spend some time at the National Center of Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, and the Center for Cell and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India.
"We have demonstrated that the expression of truncated osmotin can provide both drought and salinity tolerance in some important crop plants like cotton and soybeans. It can also provide resistance to a number of fungal pathogens in some plants, so the expression of this gene in transgenic crop plants can have great potential for its agricultural application in India and elsewhere," said Singh. "Since I am originally from India and had all my undergraduate and graduate education in India, personally it means a lot to me to be able to go back for some time and provide my expertise and assistance in any way that I can."
Singh was selected by the 12-member William J. Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, part of the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding among United States citizens and those of other countries.
SRM University is one of the top ranking universities in India with 33,044 students and 2,358 faculty across all the campuses, offering a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programs in engineering, management, medicine and health sciences, and science and humanities. The private university is recognized by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the Government of India's Department of Higher Education as a category "A" institution, the highest category ranking.