I received my Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. My thesis research was concerned with an area of photosynthesis called photosynthetic carbon metabolism. In short, this is the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide from the air into carbohydrates such as sugars and starch. For my two postdoctoral research stints, I became a molecular biologist and researched (i) how a gene in a bluegreen algae called Anabaena is regulated by transcription factors (Texas A&M) and (ii) genes encoding the process of C4 photosynthesis (The Commonwealth and Scientific Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia).
My current research concerns the study of a plant metabolic enzyme called pyruvate,orthophosphate dikinase, or PPDK for short. Specifically, I am investigating how the activity of this enzyme is up-regulated or down-regulated in the plant by another enzyme called the PPDK Regulatory Protein, or RP for short. Our experimental approach entails the use of molecular (DNA, RNA, -based) and biochemical tools. The plants we use in the study are maize and a small mustard plant called Arabidopsis. The information gained from this study will be useful to plant scientists who are seeking to improve productivity and yield in crop plants. Funding for this research is provided by a $146,000, 3-yr research grant I received from the National Science Foundation in 2003.
Each year approximately 4-6 students participate in my research project. During the summers, I have had funds to hire 2-students for full-time research. We have also been joined by an additional one or two part-time unpaid student researchers. Qualifications are one-year of college chemistry and organismal biology. In most cases though, the ability to do research and to learn from this activity depends on the individual student's attitude and motivation rather than the number of relevant courses she or he has taken. I also ask that students commit to at least two semesters of research. This is because the learning curve involved in mastering techniques and concepts is not conducive for a single semesters effort. Finally, although every student will have their own goals for why they wish to participate in research, we all try to bring the years research activity to a conclusion by giving research presentations at a local or regional conference.
* denotes undergraduate MSUM student co-authors