Research Interests

Understanding the genetic basis of morphological evolution is a fundamental challenge for plant evolutionary biologists. How many genes contribute to the evolution of a new trait? What types of genes are involved? Do the alterations in these genes affect protein function or gene expression? Research in my laboratory addresses these and related questions using maize and its wild relatives as a model system. Specifically, my associates and I seek to unravel the genetic events responsible for the morphological evolution (or domestication) of maize from its wild ancestor, teosinte. I became interested in this question because I was fascinated by the fact that maize and teosinte show dramatic morphological differences even though maize was derived from teosinte less than 10,000 years ago. Another area of research in my laboratory is on the evolution of the maize genome. Plant genomes are the end products of long, complex evolutionary histories. My laboratory is trying to understand how such forces as selection, mutation, genetic drift, and polyploidy have shaped the maize genome by studying the patterns of nucleotide variation in maize genes and microsatellites.

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Primary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology