- Ph.D., Plant Physiology, University of California, Davis, 1985
- M.S., Vegetable Crops, University of California, Davis, 1982
- B.S., Plant and Soil Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1980
- Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. 6/03 – present
- Researcher of the Year, 2010, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno
- Sabbatical Fellowship, 11/2006- 5/2007, University of Adelaide, Australia with Dr. Stephen Tyerman
- Researcher of the Year, 2006, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno
- Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. 6/94- 6/03
- Sabbatical Fellowship, 6/1996- 5/1997, University of California, Berkeley with Dr. Russell Jones and CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, Australia with Dr. Rana Munns
- Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. 7/88-6/94
- Doctoral Dissertation: Na+-Ca2+ Interactions in Roots of Salt-Stressed Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). Major Professor: Dr. André Läuchli.
- Master's Thesis: Physiological Responses to Salinity of Two Cultivars of Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). Major Professor: Dr. Arthur Spu
I enjoy research immensely along with the collaborative exchange and development of ideas with my colleagues. I am fascinated by how life works and the more complex interactions that occur in biology. I think that is why I have been so drawn in my early student years to whole plant physiology and later to systems biology.
My research has spanned 30+ years and focused primarily on salinity stress during the first two decades of my career. I wanted to make more salt tolerant crop plants, crops that can even tolerate seawater irrigation. In the last decade I have changed my focus to abiotic stress tolerance (drought, salinity and cold) of grapes using a systems biology approach.
My recent work has substantiated published research that exposure of Vitis vinifera vines to water-deficits can enhance the aroma, flavor, and color characteristics of grape juice and wine. I have developed an integrated systems biology approach to study the effects of abiotic stress on transcript, protein and metabolite abundance in vegetative and fruit tissues of Vitis vinifera.
Currently, I am focusing my research in five major areas. One major project is on the effects of water deficit and ABA on water-use-efficiency and ABA signaling in grapes.
A second focus is on the effects of ABA on ABA signaling in different tissues. Preliminary data indicate that ABA signaling is quite different in different tissues. The nature of these differences is under examination at both the transcriptomic and proteomic levels.
In my third major project, we recently analyzed whole-genome microarrays of Cabernet Sauvignon berries that span a narrow developmental window when fruit flavors appear in mature fruit, as determined by sensory analysis by Hildegarde Heymann at UC Davis. We have identified a transcription factor that sharply rises and decreases in transcript abundance just at the developmental stage that these fruit flavors appear. This occurs specifically in the berry skin, the source of most fruit flavors. One of my postdocs is actively determining the function of this transcription factor.
In the fourth project, we are examining the effects of drought on stilbene metabolism. Previous research determined that resveratrol synthase transcript abundance was increased in Cabernet Sauvignon by water deficit. Resveratrol concentrations are not affected, but the glycosylated form (piceid) is increased substantially in many but not all varieties that we have examined.
In the fifth project, we have initiated the sequencing (Illumina and PacBio) of the Cabernet Sauvignon genome. The data will be assembled to the existing Pinot Noir model grape genome and annotated using RNA-seq data that we are generated with the aid of the Dr. Massimo Delledonne at the University of Verona. These extra data sets will enhance our abilities to annotate the genes that are expressed in Cabernet Sauvignon.
I am currently teaching two courses: Plant Biology, which is taught at the junior level and Plant Physiology, which is taught at the senior and graduate level.
The Plant Biology course is an introductory course to plants designed to encourage and excite the students about plants. Students are involved in plant collections, plant identification, and a plant growing contest (winner gets dinner for two at their favorite restaurant). The course focuses on timely topics such as environmental issues, medicinal uses of plants, agriculture and biotechnology. These issues are challenged in a debate format throughout the course. There are three teams; one team that is pro issue, one that is con, and one that is judge of the debate. Teams roles are assigned by the instructor and change with each new debate, giving all a chance at each role. The debates help students develop critical thinking skills.
The Plant Physiology course is rigorous. It can be divided into four portions. The first portion of the course focuses on the quantitative aspects of transport (water, ions and sucrose) into the cell and through the plant. The second portion focuses on photosynthesis and respiration, the third portion focuses on growth, hormones and plant development, and the fourth portion attempts to integrate the first three with lectures on plant responses to various environmental stresses. Throughout this course we read scientific papers on topics already discussed in class. This is a group project. Groups work on the paper outside of class with each member having a different role. One student presents the group summary in class. Reading and discussion of scientific papers help students develop critical thinking skills.
I enjoy teaching and like to take creative and innovative approaches (some don't work and have to be abandoned or modified). I incorporate the use of field trips, film, computers and web pages on the internet into my lectures and exercises. I also participate with the Plant-Ed bulletin board on the internet, which is a great source of information and ideas from excellent colleagues from around the world who are interested in teaching Plant Biology.