119 Plant Science
My research focuses on molecular regulatory mechanisms of plant senescence and dimensional control of gene expression in plants. This research has implications on the yields of certain crops and their storage after harvest.
Leaf senescence is an integral part of plant development that limits the yield of certain crops. (Yellowing leaves lose their photosynthetic capability.) Senescence also contributes to much of the postharvest loss of vegetable crops. The long-term goal of my research is to unveil the molecular regulatory mechanisms underlying the leaf yellowing process or senescence so that we can use the molecular findings to devise ways to manipulate senescence genetically for agricultural improvement. Various molecular, genetic and genomic approaches have been employed to clone and analyze genes that are either driving or retarding the senescence program in Arabidopsis and tobacco plants. My ongoing projects include (i) functional characterization of a subset of senescence-specific transcription factor genes in Arabidopsis, (ii) networking leaf senescence transcription factors in Arabidopsis, (iii) map-based positional cloning and characterization of genetic loci that regulate expression of senescence-specific genes, and (iv) development and use of TASSEL tagging system for cloning senescence-inhibiting genes in tobacco plants.
In 2007, I have actively participated in numerous outreach activities to show stakeholders and business sectors how research on senescence is important, how our senescence-manipulating technologies have been developed/invented, and how our technologies can be best utilized for our daily life and society. Many didn’t know plant senescence had close relations with their daily lives, but they do after my presentations. Some biotech firms and venture capitalists have expressed their strong interests/intention in commercializing our technologies.
I teach four courses directly related to my research: Hort 425 (Postharvest Biology of Horticultural Crops), Hort 625.01 (Advanced Postharvest Physiology), Hort 625.02 / BioPl 453.06 (Plant Senescence), and BioPL 744 (Graduate Research Seminars in Plant Cell & Molecular Biology)