FRI Biology Stream

Plant Pathways

CRISPR, genetics, genetic engineering, molecular biology, plant biology

our research

Our Research

The Plant Pathways research stream studies the regulatory genetics that control epidermal traits in plants, such as the expression of pigments, the differentiation of leaf hairs and the development of the seed. Besides using these traits to discover the genetics of plant development, this new knowledge can be used in biotechnology to enhance epidermal traits that are beneficial to crop plant growth and development, and to human health. We utilize a comprehensive genetics approach to both basic and applied research projects in plant biology.     

Plant Pathways research projects focus on the development of:

  • new genetic tools to refine how genes are expressed in specific cells, tissues and developmental stages of the plant.
  • a plant pigment pathway as a reporter system to detect and visually display as a color change the presence of environmental toxins in the soil and water.
  • genetic strategies to control the specific color produced by the anthocyanin pigment biosynthetic pathway.

Our Strategy

Our science teaching philosophy is simply this: there is no better way to learn science and experience the joy and wonder it inspires than to engage in real research. When it comes to “school” and “learning”, we favor ideas centered on scientific thinking and scholarship. We contribute to students’ academic, professional, and personal development as scientific thinkers such that they may become:

  • Confident students who take ownership of their education.
  • Joyful learners with a healthy sense of awe, wonder, and curiosity.
  • Fearless of failure, understanding that difficult challenges are the best opportunities for enhancing academic and personal development.
  • Collaborators who understand that their work depends on their interactions with peers at all levels (fellow students, instructors, advisers, etc.).
  • Communicators who can translate scientific information grasped in their minds into coherent oral and written formats.

To gain these career readiness skills, students in our stream take a comprehensive genetics approach to basic and applied plant biology projects. Moreover, all the technologies learned are common to research in all genetic model organisms, not just plants.

Plant Pathways researchers learn and apply various molecular biology methods such as:

  • building gene fusions using a variety of cloning techniques
  • gene editing technologies (CRISPR)
  • gene cloning & genetic engineering
  • generating mutant and transgenic organisms
research impact

Our Impact

Plants are arguably the most essential resource for humans. We absolutely depend on them for food, shelter, water, medicine, habitats, climate and much more. Plants will be at the heart of many of the solutions to the world’s biggest problems. Thus, there is no understating the importance of plant science, all branches, both basic and applied. We do our small part to contribute to new knowledge and applied approaches in the field of plant molecular genetics.

Plant Pathways has published on the genetics controlling plant epidermal development, including traits that are of significance in crop species. We also have ongoing applied projects leveraging the knowledge from basic research in plants to produce new plant genetic tools, including refined ways to control gene expression and the development of plants as biosensors of environmental toxins. Our undergraduate laboratory will continue to creatively utilize the basic knowledge that we and other labs have generated towards the development of applied projects.     

Our Team

Profile image of Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez

  • Associate Professor of Practice
  • Freshman Research Initiative
  • College of Natural Sciences

Alan M. Lloyd

  • Professor Emeritus
  • Molecular Biosciences
Building: NMS
Room Number:5.122
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Course Credit
Research Outcomes