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  • Boyce Thompson Institute
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics Section

Kohl Perry ’26 received honors in the undergraduate research poster competition organized by the Tuskegee University Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the honor society of agriculture, at the 81st Professional Agricultural Workers Conference (PAWC) for his investigation into the use of nanoparticles as a vehicle for delivering biological molecules into plant cells. Perry, a biology major at Tuskegee University who works in Professor Marceline Egnin’s Plant Biotech and Genomics Research lab, conducted a substantial portion of his study during a summer research experience with the Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS) led by Cornell University.

With this year’s conference theme centered around “unlocking the power of agriculture,” PAWC attracted researchers from 20 Land Grant universities in the U.S. and an international university. Notably, this year’s conference showcased the largest number of student research entries in the conference’s 81-year history and the 20th year for Tuskegee University Honor Society of Agriculture.

Perry earned third place for his poster “Testing Lipid Nanoparticles as an Effective Method for pDNA Delivery into Tomato Plants.” His research aimed to optimize the delivery of plasmid DNA into plant cells using tomato as a model organism. Perry’s study focused on the use of lipid nanoparticles as an improvement on current methods, which are limited in application.


“My lab was elated for Kohl’s placement in the 20th annual student research competition,” said Egnin, professor of plant and soil sciences at Tuskegee University.  “Kohl came to my lab as a freshman to gain experience in plant bio-engineering and is the focal collaborative link between Dr. Van Eck at Cornell CROPPS and my Lab at Tuskegee.” 

Much of Perry's work was carried out during the summer of 2023 as he engaged in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at Cornell and the Boyce Thompson Institute. His poster featured research collaborations with professors Chris Alibi and Joyce Van Eck, alongside CROPPS trainees Ritesh Kumar, Adithya Rangamani and Jo Bùi.

Perry was announced as the poster competition winner on October 31 at the GSD- PAWC event in Montgomery. This award marked the culmination of an impressive week of achievements for Perry, who had previously been named Tuskegee University’s Mister Sophomore during the weekend's football game.

“I was thrilled to learn that Kohl earned first place for his poster, which was based on his REU research project between my lab and Chris Alabi’s lab in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering,” said Van Eck, a professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute and an adjunct professor at the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We enjoyed having Kohl spend time in our lab this summer. He has a very bright future!”

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