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N.C. State snags new plant scientist, continues growth at N.C. research campus

People, Research

Tzung-Fu Hsieh will specialize in systems biology and epigenetics

Justin Moore | September 21, 2012

From N.C. State PHHI: University’s Plants for Human Health Institute continues its expansion efforts by adding another established scientist to its team at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. Dr. Tzung-Fu Hsieh (pronounced: “Zung Foo Shay”) joined the institute in August 2012 and is developing a research program centered on the biological systems of flowering plants, including fruits and vegetables. With the addition of Hsieh, N.C. State now employs nearly 50 faculty and staff in Kannapolis.

Dr. Tzung-Fu Hsieh will specialize in systems biology and epigenetics in his new role with N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute.

Hsieh specializes in systems biology, a relatively new field of research that studies the interactions between the components of biological systems, and how those relationships impact the functions and behaviors of the systems. His area of focus is known as epigenetics, which aims to understand changes in gene behaviors that are caused by factors other than mutations in DNA. Epigenetics plays an important role in plant development.

For example, Hsieh studies the development of endosperms, the placenta-like tissue inside the seeds of most flowering plants that nourish the embryo. Endosperm plays a critical role in human nutrition and health, accounting for more than 75 percent of the world’s food supply, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). That’s because cereal crops like corn, rice and wheat – some of the most widely produced crops in the world – are harvested for their grains, which are mostly endosperm.

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