My lab focuses on molecular genetic research in the plant model system Arabidopsis thaliana, a mustard weed. Arabidopsis is an ideal system to do genetic research in because it possesses a number of ideal characteristics and an impressive array of available resources, including the completed sequence of its genome. Two ongoing projects in my lab use molecular genetic approaches to study various phenomena in plants. These projects are described below. If you are interested in either, please feel free to drop by my office (J251) and chat or contact me at:

Phytoremediation of metal ions.
In the first project, we are studying plants’ responses to abiotic stress, in particular metal ions in the environment. High levels of various metal ions (such as nickel ions, our current focus of study) in the soil can be highly toxic to plants. We want to understand at the molecular level the mechanisms by which plants respond to such environmental stress, including how they take up, transport, sequester, accumulate, and otherwise process metal ions from the environment. In order to accomplish this we will employ a combination of complementary approaches: forward genetics (mutant screening) and reverse genetics. Further, if we can understand the mechanisms by which plants normally respond to and process metal ions, then we have the potential to isolate or develop plants that are resistant to the toxicity or are more efficient at processing the metal. Thus, the findings of this work have potential applications in phytoremediation, the use of plants to take up, process, and otherwise clean pollutants, such as metal ions, from the environment. This work is done in collaboration with Dr. Rick Schaeffer from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.


Post-transcriptional sugar-signaling.
We are also interested in studying signaling and gene regulation by sugars in Arabidopsis. Sugars, in addition to serving as a chemical store of energy in the plant, are also thought to act as a signaling molecule inside the plant, much like the classical phytohormones. Most research studying sugar signaling has focused on the ability of sugars to regulate mRNA levels of specific genes. Our focus is on the phenomenon of post-transcriptional sugar regulation, specifically the ability of sucrose to regulate the process of translation of the gene ATB2/GBF6. This project will also involve molecular and genetic approaches.

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