i. The primary focus of my research program is directed at obtaining basic understanding of molecular genetic mechanisms that act to control plant developmental processes through the regulation of gene activity. In addition, the laboratory is interested in developing efficient methods for gene transfer in plants for the purpose of trait modification and enhancement for turfgrass, orchid and other plant species.
Senescence is an important developmental process in plants that eventually leads to whole plant, organ, tissue and cell death through endogenously controlled degenerative processes. The laboratory is focussing on an analysis of soybean cotyledon and whole plant senescence in order to identify genes and gene products regulated in expression during this developmental process. Understanding senescence at the molecular level should provide fundamental information about cell differentiation and the regulation of cellular events through the action of plant hormones and other signals. Previous work in the laboratory has led to the recovery and initial characterization of cDNA clones for genes up-regulated in expression during senescence of soybean cotyledons and leaf senescence. Current project efforts center on using a subset (6) of these available genes clones and assess their patterns of expression in situations that perturb or modify the normal senescence program (ie, genetically determined evergreen mutants, depodded plants and genetic male sterile mutants). Based on preliminary results that show that the clones respond differentially to perturbations in the senescence program, we believe that this work will provide specific probes that can be used, long-term, to uncover and define a number of different signaling pathways involved in controlling the senescence program, the complexity of the pathways and their interconnectedness. This work will begin the process of defining the various signaling pathways of induction and subsequent progress of the pathways and their branch points within the overall senescence program.
ii. The primary focus of my research program is directed at obtaining basic understanding of molecular genetic mechanisms that act to control plant developmental processes through the regulation of gene activity. In addition, the laboratory is interested in developing efficient methods for gene transfer in plants for the purpose of trait modification and enhancement for turfgrass, orchid and other plant species.
Efficient transformation methods have been developed for introducing genetic material into plant cells with the most success demonstrated with either microprojectile bombardment (biolistics) or Agrobacterium-based methods. My laboratory has been developing protocols using both methods for introducing various gene constructs into turfgrass and orchid species. This work is performed in collaboration with Dr. Albert Kausch of HybriGene LLC, a plant biotechnology company interested in turfgrass germplasm enhancement, located in nearby West Kingston, RI. All research activities in the laboratory are supported by newly established, centralized research facilities on campus developed through a university-wide Environmental Biotechnology Initiative (EBI). This initiative in the biological sciences is designed to bolster undergraduate and graduate education and research opportunities in biotechnology. In particular, a comprehensive transgenics facility has been established on campus through funding provided by federal, state and private foundation grants. Paid internships in plant transgenics are also available through federal and private grants for undergraduate and graduate students.