Project Description :
Identifying the genes causing developmental breakdown in hybrid seeds
The Willis lab is seeking responsible and motivated undergraduates to assist with research on the genetic mechanisms that cause and maintain barriers to gene flow in plant species.
The formation of inviable or sterile hybrids is a common outcome of hybridization in plants. Enough genetic elements have now been identified that we can generalize about the kind of gene networks involved and their evolutionary dynamics. Hybrid breakdown often has a simple genetic basis and frequently results from the duplication or loss of function in a few genes. These genes may evolve as an incidental byproduct of intragenomic conflict between loci, particularly those that govern the allocation of resources toward embryonic development. Inviability loci may also exhibit genomic imprinting, where an allele’s expression level is determined by its parental origin.
Determining the evolutionary mechanisms involved requires mapping the genes involved. The Willis lab uses Mimulus guttatus, a wildflower that occurs throughout western North America, as a model system for identifying genes underlying ecological adaptation and barriers to gene flow. We employ classical plant genetic techniques combined with genomic sequencing technology to map traits to the genetic loci responsible. This research involves several projects addressing multiple aspects of the evolution of hybrid inviability, and provides excellent opportunities for students to get involved in evolutionary genetics and developmental biology research.
Undergraduate assistants will help generate and maintain mapping populations in the greenhouse, collect tissue, and do laboratory work and data entry. Students should be available for at least 8 hours, and up to 15 hours a week. If eligible for work study, pay will be $10 an hour. Positions are available starting this spring, during the summer, and the fall.
In the application, please explain your academic interests and what you hope to get out of a research project in the Willis lab.