Robert Grebenok, PhD, professor of biology, is a higher plant biochemist and plant physiologist at Canisius who studies how higher plants protect themselves against insect predation. Dr. Grebenok focuses on sterol use in plant-eating (herbivorous) insects. He is one of few chemical ecologists, worldwide, who examines the role that sterol nutrition plays on herbivorous insect community dynamics. Specifically, he analyzes the chemical composition and chemical change of crop plants in an attempt to identify gut proteins that herbivorous insects use to take up particular sterol structures from their food. This work can help find ways to assist plants in stopping the function of these proteins. During the last 25 years, this form of research has provided additional protection for plants from insect attack beyond the traditional chemical pesticides. Through his research, Dr. Grebenok hopes to find additional ways to assist plants in maintaining their health, while eliminating pesticide use.
Dr. Grebenok’s research teams have been conducting research in the area of plant, insect and ecosystem interactions for the past 30 years and have authored eight grants, which have generated more than $1.5 million dollars in government support for this research. The interdisciplinary team includes faculty researchers, postdoctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduate students at Texas A&M University, Cornell University, the Max Planck Institute in East Germany and Canisius. Local high school students and Canisius science majors actively participate in Dr. Grebenok’s research, conducting experiments, assisting with data analysis, and presenting their research results at local, regional and international symposia. Most importantly, members of Dr. Grebenok’s research team learn how to interact effectively as a vital part of an interdisciplinary international research team.
Submitted by: Sara Morris, associate vice president, academic affairs