The primary goal of my research is to address the big picture question of relationship vs. form/function, and to compare across organisms to assess if the relevant molecular pathways are conserved. Primarily, I concentrate on comparing well-studied model organisms with lesser-studied ones. For my personal concentration, I focus on plant development, primarily prickles and their application as a model for cell-cell communication as it pertains to growth and development.
To this end, I use a plethora of different strategies, including looking at the plant at various levels. These include the genetic or DNA level and look at differences in gene and promoter sequence, thus allowing us to infer potential differences and similarities in function. This approach uses tools such as sequence and phylogenetic analysis, bioinformatics, PCR, cloning, screening of genomic libraries, and RT PCR. The second approach looks at gene expression at the RNA level and involves identifying differences and similarities in gene expression across varying tissues, and organs. This involves the use of tools such as next-gen sequencing techniques, qPCR, and in situ hybridization. The third approach looks at the whole plant morphology/physiology and includes morphometric analysis as well as transgenic complementation and mutational analysis Arabidopsis and Rubus varieties. I also spend a lot of time working towards expanding the number of genomic resources available for the crop for the good of the community.
A secondary goal of my research is to use molecular markers to ask questions regarding population structures, diversity, phylogeography, DNA fingerprinting and paternity.
Finally, I am currently the President for the U.S. Genetics, Genomics, and Breeding Executive Committee (US Rosexec). This is a collection of individuals from industry, government and academia who work to:
- Serve as a communication and coordination focal point for the US Rosaceae genomics, genetics and breeding community.
- Define research priorities based on input from the industry and research community.
- Facilitate scientific interaction and foster dynamic research teams.
- Promote research priorities.
- Coordinate educational efforts from the research community to the industry and the public.
I am also an Associate Editor for BMC Research Notes