Research Plant Molecular Geneticist
My laboratory takes a holistic approach to plant breeding, using both classical and molecular breeding tools to develop improved ornamental cultivars adapted to the growing conditions of the U.S. Gulf Coast region. My research interests include hybridization, application of in vitro mutation techniques and recombinant DNA technologies toward the genetic improvement of herbaceous ornamental plants.
Some of the genera that I am currently working with are Begonia, Hibiscus, and Hedychium (ornamental gingers). I have active collaborations in both the public and private sectors. For example, I collaborate with Sakata Seed, Inc under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop cold hardy inter-specific begonia clones.
Despite the ornamental value of Hedychium due to its diverse, showy, and fragrant flowers, cultivation of this genus as potted plants is hampered by the fact that most Hedychium species and cultivars grow too tall, which leads to lodging. Therefore, my lab focuses on developing new improved dwarf Hedychium cultivars. Recently we succeeded in creating two variegated dwarf lines via in vitro culture and somaclonal variation as shown below.