Plants like animals defend themselves from disease and sometimes succumb to microbial disease. My research group is interested in understanding the molecular genetic and biochemical mechanisms of plant immunity. Our long-term goal is to translate our plant immunity knowledge to reduce crop loss and pesticide use in agriculture. After many years of challenging research, my team demonstrated that DIR1 proteins move via the phloem from an initially infected leaf to distant leaves to participate in alerting/priming distant leaves to respond in a resistant manner to future microbial infections. Knowing that DIR1 is a key protein involved in inter-organ communication to initiate resistance, will allow us to dissect the priming response in distant leaves. We are using this knowledge to find environmentally friendly chemical treatments that initiate natural plant defense to provide pesticide-free methods to protect Ontario greenhouse-grown cucumbers and tomatoes from disease. We also study the Age-Related Resistance response in which plants become highly resistant to normally virulent pathogens as they mature. What molecular changes allow a mature plant to perceive and effectively defend against normally virulent pathogens, is another fascinating question we are investigating. As an instructor my goals include convincing students/future citizens that contrary to popular opinion, plants are fascinating and incredibly important for people and the planet. As a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students, I facilitate their growth as scientists and people. I encourage them to improve in areas they find challenging by reminding them it takes time, but it?s worth it.
Genetics & Molecular Biology; Microbiology & Plant Biology