248 Emerson Hall
The overall theme of my program is innovation of vegetables for adaptation for production in the Northeastern US and to be of improved quality and nutrition for consumers. I conduct much of this selection in Organic systems that represent a more natural environment. By working in a natural environment, I am better able to draw parallels between the artificial selection that takes place in plant breeding with the natural selection that has taken place during the evolution of crop progenitors. This process allows me to create new varieties that are contain otherwise cryptic factors that allow for crop production with fewer synthetic inputs and identify testable hypotheses regarding the genetic nature of these factors. My focus is on the chemistry that underlies and mediates plant adaptation to the biotic environment with the consideration that humans are a part of this biotic environment that has co-evolved with plants. These studies take place with pepper, squash, cucumber, melon, watermelon, and snap peas with whichever tool is appropriate to the question be it genomics, genetics, molecular biology, field trials or analytical chemistry. The resulting germplasm and knowledge is shared with global partners that are dealing with the same issues in their diverse regions.
I am charged with preparing students for the post-genomic era of plant genetics. It is a foregone conclusion that this generation will be able to access any genotypic information about the plants in their world. It is my role then to help them understand the genetic basis of phenotype, inheritance, diversity, and natural versus synthetic changes of plant DNA in terms that will benefit them in the future as scientists, growers, retailers or consumers.