Sophomore and upper level courses in Cell and Molecular Biology
Physiology of perennial plants: Perennial plants, such as trees, undergo a developmental state called dormancy. This physiological state is poorly understood but it is known to be a response to environmental cues such as the short days of winter or drought. Practical applications of this research could result in an ability to alter the length of the growing season of perennial plants and result in the development of new methods of storage of fruit and vegetable crops.
Potato Meristems: Potato tubers are an ideal system for basic studies into meristem dormancy. The meristems of potato tubers have a pronounced dormant period and are therefore ideal for examining the molecular and cellular conditions of the dormant state. Previous research examined genes associated with the regulation of cell division has shown that the arrest of cell division common in a dormant meristem is a condition that is downstream from the imposition of dormancy. Therefore the dormant state represses cell division and cell division is not a state of dormancy. More recent research has been focused on the analysis of transcriptome changes that occur in potato tuber meristems as dormancy progresses.
Black Cherry: In the United States the harvest of cherry wood for fine furniture is restricted to the Allegheny plateau and to a portion of the Appalachian highlands but the range black cherry extends from central regions of the Ontario province in Canada to the southern regions of Mexico. This raises some interesting questions about the genetics of this species and timber quality. Are the trees in the Allegheny genetically superior or is timber quality a factor of the environment? In addition, trees in the northern regions of the species range are subjected to a very short growing season and have a long period of meristem dormancy while trees in the southern parts of the species range have warm winters. These characteristics make black cherry an interesting system for genetic analysis. Part of this research is to establish a system to examine the genetic structure and dynamics of black cherry populations in Pennsylvania.