I use synthetic biology with an understanding of plant physiology and gene regulation to design tomorrow’s crops.
I currently co-ordinate efforts to improve the way plants capture and use sunlight on the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project. This involves construct design and assembly for the transformation of rice, corn, soybean, cowpea, wheat, and sorghum as part of the design-build-test-learn cycle.
In addition, I am working to identify new genes involved in photoprotection through a combination of genome-wide association analysis, reverse and forward genetic screens. Candidate genes are validated through analysis of Arabdiopsis KO lines and transient overexpression in Nicotiana benthamiana.
Certain fast-growing plants, like corn, use an efficient form of photosynthesis known as C4 metabolism. While the underlying biochemistry is well understood, little is known about how this process is regulated. My work has provided insight into how genes are activated in specific cell-types of leaves of C4 plants and suggested a gain of chloroplast signaling may be necessary to balance the energetic demands of C4 metabolism with light-capture. These findings could aid future efforts to engineer improved photosynthesis in crops such as rice.