Research in my lab seeks to understand the physiological and molecular mechanisms underlining interactions between plants, insect herbivores, and pathogenic microbes. The two key questions of my research program are: (1) what mechanisms do plants employ to respond to a variety of biotic stressors? and (2) what components of these mechanisms can be genetically altered to facilitate development of innovative strategies to enhance host plant resistance? My approach to these questions relies on combining field observations and laboratory experiments including genomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic tools as well as concepts and methods from various biological disciplines to attain a comprehensive understanding of the wide spectrum of interactions involved.



Aphids are amongst the most damaging pests of plants that use their stylets to penetrate the plant tissue to consume large amounts of phloem sap and thus deprive the plant of photoassimilates. In addition, some aphids vector important viral diseases of plants. In the lab, there are currently several projects that study various aspects of plant-aphid interactions.
a.    Phloem transport of amino acids: a novel target to disrupt bacterial symbiosis in soybean aphids
b.    Evaluation of PAD4 over-expressing transgenics to soybean aphids 
c.    Diurnal feeding in aphids as a potential mechanism of osmoregulation
d.    Targeted translatome profiling to determine plant response to aphid feeding
e.    Mechanisms of host plant resistance in sugarcane aphid-resistant germplasm



The functional impact of alternative splicing on plant proteins is understudied but recent examples highlight its importance in regulating a wide range of physiological and developmental processes including biotic stress response. Functional characterization of AS events will provide significant new insights into regulation of plant processes. This project is aimed at determining the role of a splice variant of an important plant defense modulator.



Potato viruses are the most important seed potato pathogens and are a significant burden on commercial potato production. They cause costly yield and quality reduction and reduce profit margins for producers. Three vector-borne tuber-necrotic viruses are currently economically important threats for the potato industry. These viruses include the aphid-transmitted potato virus Y (PVY) and the plasmodiphora-transmitted potato mop-top virus (PMTV). This project utilizes two advanced molecular techniques for screening advanced breeding potato clones for these necrotic viruses, which will accelerate Colorado potato breeding program.