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  XAS analysis depicts the spatial distribution of zinc "hotspots" (green) and calcium (red) in the roots of a wetland Juncus plant gowing on elevated levels of zinc.

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Structure of a chloroplast taken with a transmission electron microscope



chlorophyll fluorescence in an unhealthy plant

Plant Stress Physiology and its potential impacts on society

I am a plant cell biologist broadly intersted in learning how plants interact with their environment. Plants are continuously subjected to a variety of biotic and abiotic threats, such as drought, heavy metals, or extreme fluctuations in temperature or light availability. Plant must exhibit plasticity to be able to respond to this contast barrage of stress in order to survive. But unlike animals and other mobile organisms, plants are rooted to the soil making stress avoidance and tolerance an additional challenge. So if you think our lives are full of stress, think about plants and the factors affecting their evolution!

Students in my research group use a wide range of plants to better understand how harsh environmental conditions alter cellular and physiological processes. Although we use molecular techniques to understand cellular processes, many of our research questions are framed in an ecological context. Why might some plants thrive in unfavorable environments whereas other species succumb to the same stress? My research lab seeks to provide mechanistic insight to this question. To accomplish this objective, students in my research program perform laboratory experiments to understand the cellular mechanisms that govern plant stress physiology. These lab studies are designed to answer how stress reprograms metabolism and cellular processes so plants can survive in their natural habitat.

In particular, my lab seeks to better understand how stress tolerance is mediated by proteasomes. Proteasomes degrade regulatory and misfolded proteins in eukaryotic cells. Proteasome impairment is implicated in a host of human diseases, and their discovery led to a Nobel Prize; however, proteasomes are less well-studied in plants. My research program wants to learn if plant ecophysiology is governed by proteasome function and the consequences of stress on proteasome impairment, as further elaborated under the "research and funding" page.

chlorophyll flourescene in a healthy plant