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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Researchers park in garage greenhouses

    Despite a campuswide parking crunch, science takes priority on the top level of the Sixth Street Parking Garage.

    UA researchers are taking advantage of natural light in greenhouses on the garage’s exposed roof to cultivate medicinal herbs and plants.

    David Gang, an assistant professor in plant sciences, leads a team of about 10 students who are studying ginger, turmeric and sweet basil for their potential to reduce inflammation associated with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.

    Gang said his team has made great progress in the past year, identifying what they believe to be the compound in turmeric that reduces inflammation, Gang said.

    “”Progression of certain diseases requires inflammation of the body,”” Gang said. “”As the infected area of the body inflames, blood flow increases, which will help a tumor to grow.””

    Recent studies suggest that Alzheimer’s disease may be a result of inflammation of the brain, Gang said.

    Gang, whose group is one of about 12 to 15 different groups conducting research in the greenhouses, said his research is primarily funded by grants that help pay for the water and electricity needed.

    Originally housed between the Old Chemistry and Shantz buildings, the greenhouses were displaced by construction two years ago, said Arturo Baez, the senior farm supervisor for the Campus Agriculture Center.

    “”Single-story structures around campus are no longer practical in terms of space utilization,”” Baez said. “”We needed to utilize natural lighting for better plant growth. Being sandwiched between two tall buildings does have an effect on plant research.””

    The solution was to work closely with Facilities and Design Management and Parking and Transportation Services to maximize used space.

    Patrick Kass, director of PTS, said he knew the greenhouses would be placed on top of the garage when construction began about three years ago.

    “”That determination was made, so we built the infrastructure to house the greenhouses at a later date,”” he said.

    The west side of the top level was built in conjunction with the rest of the garage, funded by PTS and created specifically for parking.

    The east side of the top level was funded by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and constructed specifically to house the greenhouses after the garage was erected, Kass said.

    “”It was all part of a conceptual plan,”” Kass said. “”They were two separate projects, but they were conceived and planned for at one time.””

    Rachael Painter, an undeclared science sophomore, said although parking space is a big issue this year, the research being done on top of the garage will help to raise the UA’s prestige, standards and reputation.

    “”We could take advantage of our unique year-round sunlight and also be close to the researchers’ labs for easy access to plant material,”” Baez said.

    In addition, Baez said there is a system that can monitor outside weather conditions and control the temperature, fan speed, lighting and humidity of each of the eight greenhouses at any time.

    Baez said he can access the system from his home, allowing him nearly 24-hour control.

    There are many other plants grown for research within the greenhouse, including corn, fava beans, rice and, at times, petunias, Baez said.

    However, most of the actual research is conducted at the labs within nearby buildings, which Baez said is beneficial to research.

    “”Having greenhouses close to the labs means that you don’t have to travel long distances to collect plant samples,”” Baez said. “”This prevents plant contamination and travel stress, which can kill your plant.””

    Although plants in the Sixth Street Parking Garage greenhouse cannot be eaten, Gang said the university has additional greenhouses located at East Roger Road and North Campbell Avenue that supply the Student Union Memorial Center with tomatoes.

    This month marks two years of operation for the greenhouses located on the top of the Sixth Street Parking Garage.

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