Project Description: 

Unlike annuals and herbaceous perennials, most woody plants require many years of growth before achieving reproductive competence. In fruit and nut trees, this maturation process requires 5-10 years of growth, and is a significant barrier for attempts to genetically improve these crops. In annuals, developmental aging is regulated by a family of microRNA genes know as MIR156. The small RNA product of these genes regulate a family of transcription factors (SQUAMOSA-PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL)) that control many aspects of adult vegetative and reproductive development (Wu and Poethig 2006). In trees, miR156 plays a similar role in vegetative development, especially in the first few months of development (Wang et al 2011; Leichty and Poethig 2019; Lawrence et al 2021), but it remains unclear if miR156 levels play a role in reproductive maturation many years later. Preliminary work suggests that factors regulating floral initiation are sensitive to levels of miR156 in multiple tree species.

Undergraduate's Role: 

The Leichty lab seeks undergraduate students to pursue research on the developmental genetic basis of age-dependent flowering in trees. The candidate will work closely with the lab’s principal investigator, Dr. Aaron Leichty, and other members of the lab to identify factors controlling maturation. The candidate will help create, maintain, and characterize transgenic trees differing in their age-at-first flowering.

Undergraduate's Qualifications: 

The student should be strongly interested in learning and conducting basic research in plant development, biotechnology, and/or molecular biology. The student should have completed introductory biology, and some advanced classes, for example microbiology, molecular biology, genetics. The student should be highly motivated, conscientious, able to work independently and as part of a team, and carry out experiments to completion. The research project is bestperformed with 3-4 hour blocks of time. The student must be able to come to the lab during normal hours (9am-6pm weekdays).

Off Campus
9-12 hours
Project URL: