Research Program Overview
We promote an inclusive, responsible and creative environment where two fundamental questions in plant developmental biology motivate our research: what are the factors that determine plant architecture and how do these factors regulate plant shape? In crop and wild species, leaf structure affects light capture and plant density, and inflorescence and floral forms directly impact yield through the number and arrangement of seed/grain-bearing structures. Despite such agricultural and ecological significance, there remain many exciting and open questions regarding the genetic and molecular mechanisms that regulate plant architecture.
Unlike animals, plants have the remarkable ability to initiate new organs throughout their life. All plant organs develop from active, pluripotent stem cell tissues called meristems. Plant shape is largely determined by meristem activity, as well as growth and patterning of the organs they produce. Our research aims to understand genetic mechanisms that regulate meristem function, and those that underlie development of vegetative and reproductive organs. In parallel, we are interested in how developmental pathways interpret environmental signals to modulate or coordinate growth, especially when under abiotic stress.
We leverage natural diversity as well as mutants in maize and related cereals to study development. Our research utilizes an array of techniques, including forward and reverse genetics, light and scanning electron microscopy, molecular biology, genomics, single cell -omics and gene editing. We work as a team to address two main questions 1) how does the hormone ethylene regulate maize growth, development and stress response, and what are the genomic features of the ethylene pathway; and 2) how do boundary genes regulate meristem activity, pattern organs and/or control growth to modulate plant architecture.
B.S. Biological Sciences University of Iowa
M.S. Biological Sciences University of Iowa
Ph.D. Plant Biology Iowa State University
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow Cornell University