Project Description: 

Plants must undergo developmental transitions at the optimum time to ensure greatest survival and reproductive success. One such transition is the decision to make flowers to begin reproduction. The timing of this transition is essential: if plants flower too early, they may miss the season of pollinator activity or optimum weather conditions. Similarly, late flowering may result in setting seeds at the wrong time of year for seedling survival.

Flowering time is an essential trait within agriculture, as it directly affects the timing of harvests. Crops with tightly controlled flowering time can also ripen within a precise timeframe, maximizing yield at theh time of harvest.

The Williams lab studies epigenetics within plants. We have identified a possible role for DNA methylation (a reversible chemical modification to DNA) at an important flowering time gene. We are initiating a project to manipulate the levels of DNA methylation at this gene in the model plant species Arabidopsis, and to observe the effects on flowering time.

Students interested in plant epigenetics are highly encouraged to contact Prof. Ben Williams by email to discuss working in the Williams lab, as there are additional projects available.

Undergraduate's Role: 

We seek an undergraduate student who is available for 8 hours a week to identify plants with different levels of DNA methylation, and to precisely measure their flowering time. This project will include the following important techniques:

DNA extraction
PCR and bisulfite PCR (to analyze DNA methylation)
Plant genetics
Flowering time assays

Undergraduate's Qualifications: 

Some initial lab experience with basic lab procedures (e.g. pipetting, scientific note-taking) is preferred. Experience working with plants is helpful but not necessary to apply.

This project will require excellent organization skills and flexible time-keeping. To precisely measure flowering time of plants, the student may be required to briefly check on their experiments multiple (at least 4) times a week. While this will not entail long hours, students with busy/inflexible schedules may find this project challenging.

On Campus
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