The University of Oklahoma will receive $650,000 for a 5-year study to collect and analyze genetic data from different populations in Peru.
Researcher Cecil Lewis said the goal of the study is to solve the complicated mystery of how our environment affects our DNA.
As far as job creation the stimulus funds will pay the salary of one full-time employee and eight part time students for five years.
Outspoken opponent of President Obama's stimulus package State Senator Randy Brogdon said every single stimulus-funded project in Oklahoma creates unconstitutional oversight by the federal government, even at a university level.
NORMAN, Oklahoma – A stimulus-funded research project at the University of Oklahoma has some people questioning how stimulus money is being spent.
The study is titled "Research, Education and Capacity Building – Genomic Structure of Native Peruvian Populations," and is a 5-year, $650,000 project.
State Senator Randy Brogdon is an outspoken opponent of President Obama's stimulus package.
"The people of this state should be outraged to hear about this kind of nonsense going on right here in the great state of Oklahoma," Brogdon said.
Senator Brogdon said he believes every single stimulus-funded project in Oklahoma creates unconstitutional oversight by the federal government, even at the university level.
"The issue is government over-reaching, federal government over-reaching into the state of Oklahoma and controlling our state budget, controlling what the professors teach or what kind of research is going on in the universities," Brogdon said.
The OU researcher studying in Peru is Cecil Lewis. He said he applied for the grant before stimulus money was available. But the project may not have been funded at all if not for President Obama's $3 billion stimulus injection into the National Science Foundation.
"They have these incredible desert environments of high altitude. So for trying to understand how environment affects genetics, it's a great landscape to study that phenomenon," Lewis said.
In his DNA lab at OU, Lewis and his team analyze genetic data they collect in Peru. They travel to specific cities and villages collecting DNA samples from natives. The DNA samples are usually collected through people's saliva, but the people who give the samples are never identified by name.
The stimulus money is paying for Lewis and some students to travel back and forth to Peru and throughout Peru and collect the samples.
"Airfare to the different populations, bus travel to the different populations, sometimes, when it comes to the Amazon jungle, boat travel to the different populations," Lewis said.
Lewis' team is hoping to solve a complicated genetic mystery: How our environment affects our DNA. At the same time he's teaching future geneticists how to advance their science.
"Fifty percent of this grant is training people in understanding this genetic data and handling it. The people that we're going to depend on in the next generation cause they're going to have the jobs to digest this enormous data set that we have," Lewis said.
And that is the theory behind President Obama's multi-billion dollar investment in America's scientific enterprise.
"The stimulus money being focused on science I think was a brilliant idea because it really is our future. It really is a huge investment in our future," Lewis said.
But when it comes to stimulus money many people want to know how the funded projects will help stimulate the economy in the short term.
This particular grant will pay the salary of one full-time employee and eight part time students for five years.
Daniel Pullin is the VP for strategic planning at OU. He's proud that researchers here have already received more than $23 million in stimulus money.
"It's $700 billion and I believe Oklahoma deserves it's fair share," Pullin said.
He said if the past is any indicator, some of the stimulus-funded research projects could result in marketable products and eventually new jobs. On OU’s campus alone he said research has already created 300 private sector jobs across twelve different companies, which now reside in Norman.
"I think it's a tremendous track record and it's owing to, I think, a sense of um, seizing opportunity from our faculty and administration who are working arm and arm to secure as much as we can for the state of Oklahoma," Pullin said.
Cecil Lewis said he wants people to have confidence that his research is worth their tax dollars.
"It is going to benefit the people. It's going to benefit the public in a serious way," Lewis said.
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