My research focuses on uncovering the causes of extracellular surface lipid diversity in maize silks. With metabolomic chemotyping we observe distinct extracellular surface lipid accumulation patterns in maize silks across genetic backgrounds and environmental conditions. However, the reason for this variation remains largely a mystery as does the underlying genetic network that governs these metabolite traits. My goal is to utilize this natural variation to shed light on the underlying network so we can better understand the purpose of this diversity and potentially utilize this information in the production of biorenewable chemicals.
Both of my primary projects try to meet the stated goal by using distinct approaches. In one project I am trying to characterize two putative maize desaturase genes that were identified through mQTL mapping using molecular and biochemical techniques. For my other project I am studying the protective capacity of extracellular lipid profiles in maize silks relative to abiotic environmental stresses such as water loss and temperature stress using controlled growth experiments and metabolomic profiling.