Photo courtesy the Jaiswal Lab
Tonight Noor Al-Bader of OSU’s Molecular and Cell Biology department joins us on the show to discuss her doctoral research concerning genomics and plant breeding. Working in Dr. Pankaj Jaiswal’s lab, Noor deals with large data sets of genetic information concerning varieties of Rice and Chia. The goal of her study is to determine which genes relate to the expression of traits implicated in stress resistance and nutritional content. Often the varieties of these crops grown for their value to farmers are susceptible to environmental stressors such as high salinity in water, drought, and high temperatures. These environmental concerns unfortunately promise to be increasing concerns in many areas such crops are grown due to the increasing impact of climate change. Wild types are often hardier, and genetic studies of both types hold promise for producing a “happy medium” capable of producing high yield, nutritious rice and chia that is also highly prosperous under less than desirable environmental circumstances. These new varieties are not produced via genetic modification in the lab, but bred on the farm, crossing strains generation after generation and recording the results with painstaking attention to detail- the old fashioned way. The contrast between the hands on work of horticulture and the hard science of genetics in the lab may seem a surprising pair, but in this case the genetics research is utilized to facilitate traditional methods of horticulture by simply speeding along a process that could normally take lifetimes. Just like in her research, Noor strives to have the best of both worlds.