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Richard Blanton

Professor & Director of Graduate Programs

Gardner Hall 3203


My general area of research interest is cellular and developmental biology, particularly the role of the extracellular matrix in development and the mechanism of cellulose biogenesis. My research organism is the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum, a microorganism with a life cycle that alternates between unicellular and multicellular stages. The extracellular matrix formed during multicellular development in D. discoideumis composed principally of cellulose (a polysaccharide that is also the major constituent of plant cell walls) and proteins. By understanding the biochemistry and control of cellulose synthesis in D. discoideum and the relationship of cellulose to the extracellular proteins, I hope to develop an understanding of the cellular control of extracellular matrix formation in D. discoideum and its role in development. For a variety of reasons, D. discoideum is particularly amenable to this type of study, permitting me to ask questions that would be difficult to answer using a plant cell system. I expect that my results will be of interest not only to the large world-wide community of D. discoideum researchers, but also to plant biologists and evolutionary developmental biologists.


Ph.D. Botanty University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1981

B.S. Botany University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1977

Area(s) of Expertise

Cell and Developmental Biology with a focus on Cellulose Biosynthesis


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Date: 09/01/18 - 12/31/20
Amount: $44,156.00
Funding Agencies: American Society of Plant Biologists

This project proposes the construction of two virtual reality experiences within the VR coding environment A-Frame. These two programs will be freely available online for access on any web-browsing device while supporting fully immersive and interactive browsing via HTC Vive and Oculus Rift systems. Within these experiences, users will freely explore heuristic ‘learning stations’ that focus on core principles of plant biology through an interactive and user-driven approach. “Inside View: Photosynthesis” is set within a chloroplast which, in this case, takes the form of an ornate museum exhibition space. By browsing the models and learning stations that surround the space, users are taught about the structure and function relationships key to photosynthetic processes, the contextual importance of photosynthesis to ecology, as well as the evolutionary history of the chloroplast. In “Plantastic Park,” learners will be allowed free exploration of a highly stylized open world map that, given perceived scale, is equivalent to acres of ‘material world’ space. Across this massive model, users will encounter unique interactive exhibits that will center principals of plant relatedness, diversity, and evolutionary history via use of simple model manipulation and illustration. Demonstration of a working proof-of-concept model for a small portion of “Plantastic Park” is presented in this proposal. Four offerings of a hands-on workshop will also be hosted, both on the campus of North Carolina State University and on-location at plant biology symposia. These workshops, entitled “Basics of Virtual Reality for Plant Biologists,” will focus on fundamental skills of digital specimen representation and display for researchers and educators within the plant sciences. These workshops will be of value to plant biology researchers, educators, and students that hope to incorporate VR as a means to present data, develop curriculum, or explore plant diversity at a scale of detail the ‘material world’ does not afford.

Date: 06/01/05 - 8/31/08
Amount: $115,800.00
Funding Agencies: Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation

The Beckman Scholars Program recognizes outstanding undergraduate students in chemistry and biological research. Six students total will be recognized as Beckman Scholars over the three year project period and will work on independent research projects in one of ten faculty mentor laboratories (located in the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Genetics, Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, and Zoology). Each scholar is provided a stipend to support full-time work in two summers and half-time work in the intervening academic year. Funds are also provided to support research costs and research travel.

Date: 05/01/07 - 11/30/07
Amount: $5,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

Sandy Point near Edenton, NC is being established as an alternative model for estuarine community planning and development, in this case on the shores of Albemarle Sound. The technical acquisition of required permits and the design of a mixed-use, ?New Urban Waterfront? community that preserves the estuarine shoreline (for the benefit of all) are but two of the challenges that have involved strong partnerships between the developers, the county, the state and government regulators. The complexities of the issues at hand pose excellent learning and interactive challenges for undergraduates who will become tomorrow?s leaders in eastern North Carolina and beyond. This initiative is to engage four (4) students as summer interns: 2 NC State undergraduates, 1 Elizabeth City University undergraduate, and one rising high school senior from Edenton?s John A. Holmes High School. Both of the NC State students will be involved as researching Service Learning Interns (one majoring in Fisheries Management or Conservation; one in Public Policy). The Elizabeth City University student will be majoring in coastal ecology, and the high school student will enable the university students to ?navigate? Edenton?s business, government and geographic arenas more efficiently, while also reflecting on community needs and historical changes to the area in the last decade. All students will receive orientation by the President of Sandy Point, Sam Young, as well as Edenton and Chowan County leadership in researching all advances made to date (land acquisition, landscape design, architectural plans, permit requests, etc.) and in examining issues still unresolved (ecological monitoring and community development plans). Mentors from each university will meet with the students to detail expectations and to hold meetings with NC Cooperative Extension researchers and state government officials that have been engaged in this project from its inception. Students will interview citizens of the community as well as Edenton?s mayor, the Chowan County Manager, and the President of the Foundation of Renewal for Eastern North Carolina, to name a few. The idea is to see how the Sandy Point project arose, was planned, designed, eco-engineered, and how the community has perceived the introduction of this residential community (concerns and expectations in the future). Sam Young will introduce the students and mentors to the planned community and visit the site. A final report with personal reflections will be expected from each student and will be shared with the city, county and other partners including NC Sea Grant administration. News releases and television coverage of the project will be sought. Students will be expected to present their research at the State of NC Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium on November 17, 2007 at UNC-Greensboro. All participants will complete an assessment evaluation.

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