Current research project: Characterization of a Floral B-class Gene Homeotic Mutant in a Ranunclid
Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I work on the genes which produce the organs of a flower. These genes are known to work together in different combinations; each combination produces a different organ of a flower. Since these genes are very important for the development of the different organs, they are highly conserved throughout flowering plants. For example, most of the genes involved in petal formation in tulips are the same ones involved in petal formation in tomatoes. Even though tulips and tomato are very distantly related, these genes work in a very similar fashion in both species. That being said, they don’t function in exactly the same way, so it is interesting to study in what ways they interact differently and how this leads to all the different flower diversity that exists.
What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
There is so much opportunity at the University of Washington to participate in the fantastic Spencerian that is Undergraduate Research. Even if you are not considering a career in research, it will teach you how to work independently, think critically, present complicated work to a general audience and a ton of other universal skills! For those of you who are considering a career in research or medicine, it is fantastic opportunity to start now and establish a foundation by learning basic methodology and about current topics in research. Also you can get paid!
When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in research through the ALVA GenOM project here at the University of Washington. They placed me into my lab the summer before my freshman year and I have been working here ever since!
What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
By far the most exciting aspect is knowing that I am at the frontier of scientific knowledge. Unlike science class labs where there are known results, no one knows what exactly my results will be! Provided I do have hypotheses and predictions of what I expect, it is still exciting knowing that I am delving into the unknown! I find the most challenging aspect is all the failed experiments! There is a ton of troubleshooting and a lot of time is spent trying to figure out how to make things work. It can be discouraging if things haven’t worked in a while but at the same time it can lead to the most rewarding feeling when you finally figure out what is going wrong and get things to work!