Project Description :
Grasses represent some of the most agriculturally and economically important plant species around the world. Cereals are a cornerstone of food security, and several high biomass grasses are candidate biofuel crops. Understanding the genetic factors that regulate growth dynamics in grasses is key to bettering our ability to improve and implement these important crops species. In the Hazen lab, we study the transcriptional regulation of secondary cell wall biosynthesis in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon. While all plant cells are surrounded by a primary cell wall, some specific cell types also develop a secondary wall as the plant matures. This secondary wall is a thick matrix of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin and makes up the majority of above ground plant biomass. The secondary cell wall gives plants the mechanical strength to stand upright, conduct water through their vasculature, and shield themselves from pest attack. The polysaccharides in the secondary wall are the target for conversion to biofuel in the form of fermenting these sugars into ethanol.
In this project, students will assist in the identification and phenotyping of plants with mutations in genes related to the control of secondary cell wall biosynthesis. This work will include genomic DNA extraction and PCR to identify mutant plants, as well as stem cross section histology to characterize the cell wall composition. The student will also be expected to contribute to general lab chores and attend weekly individual and lab meetings. A successful applicant will have an exceptional work ethic, be comfortable working independently, and have a genuine interest in the biology behind the project.