TU's Alkharouf looks to help stop millions of dollars in U.S. agriculture losses

By Megan Bradshaw on June 23, 2017

Computer science\bioinformatics professor receives $40,000 sponsored research agreement from the USDA to analyze data using bioinformatics tools.

Towson University Fisher College of Science and Mathematics computer science professor Nadim Alkharouf received $40,000 as part of a sponsored research agreement with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to analyze data using bioinformatics tools. 

Nadim Alkharouf head shot
Nadim Alkharouf

Alkharouf’s team is studying the sugar beet maggot, a destructive pathogen that causes millions of dollars in losses to US agriculture. They use computers and bioinformatics tools, like sequence alignment tools, to pinpoint genes within sugar beets that can be turned on or off to make them more resistant to the maggots or, alternatively, kill the pest before it invades the plant.

TU students Shaina Furman and Cherokee Lake are working at the USDA research campus in Beltsville, Maryland. Lake, a bioinformatics major, is designing a database to store the gene sequencing data. Furman is more involved in lab work, taking on tasks like PCR and maintenance of cultures. 

While the work is just beginning, Alkharouf hopes to extend the grant for another year, ultimately working toward the long-term goal of producing plants that are inherently resistant.