Department of Botany and Plant Sciences
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I am interested in the diversity of flower and fruit forms and on the molecular and morphological processes that produce them. I'm particularly interested in how, during angiosperm evolution, changes in these mechanisms produced novel structures and architectures. I aim to combine morphological and molecular techniques to try to uncover these links between molecular and morphological changes.
Current projects fall into three categories. The first includes projects that use a comparative phylogenetic approach to studying plant development and evolution. In one such project, Dr. Vivian Irish and I are using morphologic, genomic, and molecular techniques to identify genes involved in the evolution of fleshy fruits in Solanaceae. A second area of research involves the evolution of the MADS-box gene family. One project focuses on the functional evolution of the APETALA1 gene lineage. This gene is crucial for flowering in model species such as Arabidopsis, but evidence suggests its role has not been constant during angiosperm evolution. I am investigating the role of changes in conserved sequence motifs in the functional evolution of this gene lineage. I am also continuing my work on floral morphology of Vochysiaceae. This tropical family is known for its beautiful and unusual flowers, which have a reduced number of organs (one fertile stamen and often only one petal) and in some cases no symmetry.