UT Tyler Receives USDA-AFRI Grant to Help Farmers Investigate Plant Health

October 18, 2023

October 18, 2023

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Editor/Writer–Strategic Communications & Media Relations
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The University of Texas at Tyler
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The University of Texas at Tyler received nearly $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to help farmers investigate plant health. Dr. Shawana Tabassum, the UT Tyler Mary John and Ralph Spence Professor of Electrical Engineering, serves as a principal investigator on the two-year project.

Tabassum and her team of UT Tyler graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows will develop novel, field-deployable sensors for detecting and measuring volatile organic compounds and nitrogen ions in plants and soil.

“This research will lay the groundwork for measuring the correlation between volatile organic compounds emitted in the field and nitrogen deficiency in plants,” said Tabassum. “The technology resulting from this project will help farmers detect nitrogen stress early in major cash crops, including cotton.”

Little information is available about this correlation due to the lack of field deployable sensors, according to Tabassum, whose research focuses on the development of flexible sensors and electronics using micro/nanoelectronics and photonics technologies. She applies this expertise to various areas, including plant sciences, biomedicine, and sustainable and climate-smart agriculture.

UT Tyler will collaborate with Texas A&M University, as researchers will deploy and test the sensors at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center, she added.

Tabassum joined UT Tyler in 2020 and directs the university’s new Center for Smart Agriculture Technology, or CeSAT. Her research has garnered grants for UT Tyler totaling more than $1.2 million. For her outstanding work, Tabassum was recognized by the American Society for Engineering Education and earned the 2023 Curtis W. McGraw Research Award (Non-PhD Granting Program Category).

She holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Iowa State University and a Bachelor of Science in electrical and electronics engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

With a mission to improve educational and health care outcomes for East Texas and beyond, UT Tyler offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs to nearly 10,000 students. Through its alignment with UT Tyler Health Science Center and UT Health East Texas, UT Tyler has unified these entities to serve Texas with quality education, cutting-edge research and excellent patient care. Classified by Carnegie as a doctoral research institution and by U.S. News & World Report as a national university, UT Tyler has campuses in Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston.