Sophomore

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.

Molecular Genetics Lab Helper

The Walker lab is seeking a general lab helper to assist with testing and maintaining our genetic stocks of Arabidopsis and other plants. This will be a great opportunity to get some first hand experience learning sterile lab technique, use of the autoclave and laminar flow hood, preparation of growth medium and plant growth experiments.

Cell division lab

Scientists have been studying mitosis for more than one hundred years, but there are still many unanswered questions! Our lab is interested in how the mitotic spindle forms and moves chromosomes in anaphase. We use diverse cells in our work. We utilize microscopy to image the mitotic spindle in control cells and following various perturbations. We spend lots of time watching cells divide. I am looking for students who like science, and who are curious about how cells work. Computer skills are a plus.

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.

Umass student-run organic vineyard on campus

There is a growing awareness of the possibilities of viticulture in cool climates thanks to newly bred varieties adapted to the New England local conditions. These new varieties are much more resilient to the sudden climate variations that we are now experimenting due to global climate changes. Because of this new opportunity, an increasing number of small, family-run vineyards has been opening in New England. New courses of viticulture that we have developed emphasize in particular the challenges and opportunities of the growing local cold climate industry and small-scale vineyards.

Emerging grape varieties for a changing climate: cold hardiness

Facing unpredictable climate changes, maintaining a sustainable 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). The traditional European grape varieties have little cold hardiness.

Biosynthesis of plant natural products and their applications

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.

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