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Biosynthesis of natural products

Our lab is interested in unravelling the biosynthetic pathways of natural products in various crop species and medicinal plants.

Plants produce an array of chemicals for adaptation to their ecological environment. These specialized metabolites have been adapted for use as pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. Our research includes identification and biochemical functional characterization of the enzymes to decipher biosynthetic pathways of interest (with a focus on terpenes) and incorporation of protein engineering to understand the mechanistic basis of enzymes of interest.

Neural Stem Cell proliferation and Brain Growth (Soph/Jr, Honors)

The Karlstrom Lab investigates the formation and growth of the forebrain, hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the zebrafish. We are examining how cell-cell signaling controls stem cell proliferation to regulate tissue growth and cell renewal in larvae and adults. This position is for students ready to pursue a serious honors thesis project, including summer research. The student will begin by quantifying normal brain growth during larval development using a series of fluorescent transgenic zebrafish lines.

Discovering microbial associations that can improve plant growth

Current agricultural practices will not meet the nutritional needs of the human population that will reach nine billion people by the middle of this century. There is a clear need for sustainable agricultural innovations that can increase yields and provide food security without incurring environmental degradation. Soil microbes are known to form associations with plants and affect plant health, and in recent years, interest has grown in exploiting the beneficial associations that plants establish with microbes.

Engineering oilseed crops for enhanced oil contents for biofuels and health

In this project, we have engineered Camelina sativa, an oilseed crop, by overexpressing and RNAi knock down of several genes involved in the lipids biosynthesis pathway for increasing the oil and seed yield for biofuels production. Students will analyze these transgenic plants for physiological, biochemical and molecular levels by confirming gene expression, plant seed yield, oil contents and lipid composition. Students will learn the techniques- qPCR analysis of gene expression, biochemical and physiological analysis such as fatty acids profiling, antioxidant enzyme assays etc.

Sea slug neuroscience

We are studying the brain of the nudibranch mollusc, Berghia stephanieae. The work is funded by an NIH BRAIN award and is in collaboration with labs at 3 other universities. All of the projects are on campus.
We have several projects for students to choose from. These include:
1) Helping to fix and embed tissue for electron microscopy.
2) Reconstructing neurons in the sea slug brain from serial electron micrographs.
3) Immunohistochemistry and in situ hydridization studies of neurons in sea slug brains.

Neurobiology of song learning & auditory perception in sparrows

In the Podos Lab (Biology Department), we study a variety of questions related to vocal communication and singing behavior in songbirds. Right now, we're collaborating with the Remage-Healey lab (Psychology Department) on two experiments working with sparrows – one exploring song learning in male swamp sparrows, and one exploring auditory perception in male song sparrows. We already completed behavioral assays with the live birds, and then looked into the brain using electrophysiology techniques to try to understand how the brain encodes those behaviors.

Climate Resilient Wine Grape Cultivars: Thinning and Juice Quality

Facing unpredictable climate changes, maintaining a resilient agriculture depends on the availability of genetically diverse cultivars. The traditional European grapes (e.g. Pinot Noir) are cultivars of a single species. In contrast, emerging grape cultivars (European-American hybrids) take advantage of the tremendous genetic diversity of the native American grape species (about 30 species). In the traditional European grape varieties, shoot and fruit thinning is known to influence fruit juice quality (ripening time, sugar, acidity) and help reduce pesticide usage.

Global Invaders Project

Invasive species reduce biodiversity and are considered a major threat to ecosystems worldwide. Despite general knowledge of their widespread impacts, we still lack a consistent list of which species are invasive, where they have been studied, and what sorts of specific impacts have been identified. This information is critical for understanding the conditions that lead to invasion and informing effective monitoring and management.

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