Vesna Bacheva, a researcher who combines mechanical engineering and plant sciences to develop novel technologies and models for studying the signaling and transport of nutrients in plants, has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2023 Schmidt Science Fellowship.
Bacheva, whose research in microscale fluid dynamics led to the development of an innovative concept for microscale flow control, has been widely recognized for achievements with the potential to usher in a new era of programmable diagnostic testing. Her Ph.D. at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology involved the development of a new concept for microscale flow control that enables programmable microfluidic devices. Now a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University involved with the Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS), she seeks to bridge critical gaps in current understandings of plant biology, offering pathways for advancements in agricultural productivity and sustainability.
Bacheva, who is interested in how plants adapt metabolism and development in response to the changing environment, hopes more engineers will transition into the realm of plant sciences to tackle issues of agricultural and environmental sustainability.
“My collaborative and interdisciplinary research within CROPPS focuses on building mathematical models and developing experimental tools to study these long-distance signals, with the ultimate goal of generating knowledge for developing programmable plants,” Bacheva said. “With these advances we may be able to tweak plants to perform specific tasks on-demand, such as producing a certain drug or becoming more resilient to drought.”
As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Bacheva is collaborating with Cornell University faculty members Abe Stroock (Gordon L. Dibble '50 Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering) and Margaret Frank (assistant professor of plant biology in the School of Integrative Plant Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences). Within the framework CROPPS, this collaborative interdisciplinary inquiry seeks to reveal insights into the holistic dynamics that regulate plant growth, crop yields, and their responses to both biotic and abiotic challenges.
The Schmidt Science Fellows initiative, established by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, is renowned for its support of emerging scientists, empowering them with resources, mentorship and global networks to address pressing global challenges.
Matt Hayes is communications manager for the Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems.