The focus of research in the Van Eck laboratory is biotechnological approaches to the study of gene function and crop improvement. For our studies, we apply several genetic engineering strategies to two major food crops: potato and tomato. The development of biotechnological techniques has made it possible to design and introduce gene constructs into plant cells and recover plants that express the introduced genes. Genes of interest to us have the potential to strengthen a plant’s resistance to disease, improve fruit characteristics, and enhance nutritional quality.
BTI Center for Plant Biotechnology Research
Groundcherry and Goldenberry Project
“The Physalis Improvement Project“
The Physalis genus is part of the Solanaceae family (also home to the well-known tomato and potato), and is home to the edible species of peruviana and pruinosa. These species are commonly referred to as groundcherry and goldenberry, as well as many other regional names. Plants produce small edible fruits that range from sweet to tart with a variety of unique flavors. This project aims to further explore the cultivation of peruviana and pruinosa in New York State and gauge potential for local food systems. The Physalis Improvement Project is led by the Van Eck research group and is made possible through funding from The Triad and National Science Foundations.
We have a summer intern position available on a collaborative NSF-funded project to study the networks involved in meristem transitions in plants and their roles in branching variation and flower production. Together with our collaborators on this project, we have established an approach that utilizes genetic, genomic, natural variation, and biotechnological tools in tomato and related Solanaceae species to identify and characterize the underlying molecular networks regulating shoot architecture and flower production in plants that exhibit the widespread “sympodial” growth habit.
The Van Eck lab’s role in this project is to develop efficient genetic engineering methods for several Solanaceaefamily members to determine candidate gene involvement in meristem transition and branching across species. In addition, we are responsible for phenotypic analysis of the resultant transgenic lines that we grow in the BTI greenhouse.
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