Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Venugopal Mendu, Research Faculty at TTU
Dr. Venugopal Mendu, a research scientist who specializes in plant physiology and biochemistry, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science. Originally from India, Dr. Mendu now calls Lubbock home. He completed his bachelor's and master's degrees from Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University-India, and his doctorate in plant physiology/biochemistry/molecular biology from the University of Kentucky. Dr. Mendu joined the faculty of Texas Tech University in 2013, where he currently teaches courses such as Transgenic & Plant Cell Genetics, and Functional Genetics. Dr. Mendu also leads a research lab, focusing on basic and applied research on plant cell wall biology using model and crop plants.
Dr. Mendu's international research efforts have helped propel Texas Tech University towards more prestigious research university status over the years. In 2019, Texas Tech was awarded a three-year subaward of $300,000 from the University of Georgia's Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut to fund Dr. Mendu's research in India and Niger. Dr. Mendu's research project's area of inquiry is variety development – entitled “Developing Aspergillus flavus-resistant peanut using seed coat biochemical markers”. The project studies the development of the seed coat of peanut and whether increasing naturally occurring biochemicals in the seed coat can increase the resistance to A. flavus, the fungus that can produce aflatoxin. The aim of the project is to fortify the seed coat with cell wall/antimicrobial compounds to confer pre- and post-harvest A. flavus resistance in peanut. He has recruited a graduate student this fall from Ghana to work on this project at TTU.
The Peanut Lab officially started several projects this month with a launch meeting in Ghana to bring together teams of scientists and students from the U.S. and the West African country. The lab is managed out of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences through an agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development, but involves scientists from a dozen U.S. universities, as well as institutions across partner countries. In August, fifty scientists and graduate students met for two days in Tamale, Ghana to discuss the research, which spans variety development, value chain improvements, nutrition and social science targeting the roles of women and youth. Dr. Mendu attended the conference and gave a presentation over his research to the group.
While Dr. Mendu is the Principal Investigator for this project, he is also working with the following team of Co-PIs: Dr. Mark Burow, Texas Tech University; Dr. Hamidou Falalou, ICRISAT-Niger; and Dr. Hari Kishan Sudini, ICRISAT-India.
Dr. Mendu's continued research efforts on behalf of Texas Tech University have been recognized time and time again. In 2018, he won the “Chancellor's Council Distinguished Research Award”, the most prestigious honor given to faculty members throughout the Texas Tech University System. He is also the recipient of “CASNR research” and “TTU alumni association New Faculty” awards in the past. This past August, he was awarded the CASNR International Impact Award – being one of the nine outstanding faculty or staff members honored for service and support of Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “I would like to thank the ICC for their support in my international research, education and outreach activities. Working closely with ICC helped me in obtaining international grants and recognition” Dr. Mendu said.