Dr. Wolf and Biological Sciences Students in the SST Greenhouse

Situated within the College of Science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), part of the University of Alabama System, the Department of Biological Sciences has undertaken a new initiative. This project aims to elevate its research potential by renovating the Greenhouse situated on top of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology. While the Greenhouse has been invaluable to faculty and students, upgrades are needed to advance botanical research.

Dr. Kathy Chan (blue, front row), UAH President Dr. Karr (pink), College of Science faculty, staff and students.

Dr. Kathy Chan (blue, front row), UAH President Dr. Karr (pink), College of Science faculty, staff and students.

A visionary projection of the Greenhouse's future is being cultivated through the efforts of Dr. Kathy Chan alongside community organizations. The overarching objective is to revolutionize the existing space into a state-of-the-art facility through grant applications and community contributions. A pivotal goal is pinpointing infrastructural enhancements that can optimize the Greenhouse for thorough experiments. The present structure has endured several decades without substantial modifications, offering many possibilities for transformation.

On August 5, 2023, the Department of Biological Sciences hosted an event to photograph the current status of the Greenhouse. The main goal is to create a space for student instruction and research, sustained faculty investigations, community engagement, and collaborative work with other academic institutions. Dr. Paul Wolf, Department Chair of Biological Sciences, praised the collective enthusiasm and dedication demonstrated by individuals invested in the project, particularly praising Dr. Chan's desire to drive the enhancement of the UAH greenhouse.

The Greenhouse hosts various plants, among them the Jatropha tree (Jatropha curcas), which gained attention two decades ago as a potential biofuel source, particularly in Africa. Despite early optimism, it has been proven that getting the amount of Jatropha tree harvest needed for producing energy is extremely difficult. However, this tree has other uses; Dr. Jerome Baudry's laboratory is leveraging cutting-edge artificial intelligence and computational methods for pharmaceutical exploration. The primary objective is to identify valuable compounds present in different parts of the tree—such as bark, roots, leaves, and flowers—that hold potential for pharmaceutical applications.

Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) is a plant that originated in Mexico and now grows widespread in tropical and subtropical areas in Latin America, Asia, and Africa (Dias et al., 2012). These components have served traditional medicinal roles across generations in Africa and other regions. The Department of Biological Sciences is taking a pioneering scientific approach to explore the potential of these incredible plant-derived compounds in pharmaceutical research. Dr. Baudry leads these efforts and holds the distinguished position of Ms. Pei Ling Chan's Chair and Professor.

Photo description: Lara Holladay, Dr. Chan, Dr. Baudry

Lara Holladay, Dr. Chan, and Dr. Baudry.

Collaborative efforts extend beyond academics, with partnerships formed with The Manna House Food Bank in Huntsville and Hydro-Stacker Systems in Florida. These collaborations have yielded a hydroponic garden within the Greenhouse, providing educational opportunities for students and the broader community. This garden serves as a platform to impart the advantages of food cultivation through hydroponics, an approach balanced to play a pivotal role in future agriculture.

Lara Holladay, Research Outreach Biology, emphasizes: "The better the facilities are, the better their research will be. Next time you walk by Shelby Center for Science and Technology, please stop by the 4th floor to see the new life growing and thriving in the Greenhouse! We welcome tours for students, faculty/staff, and community members."