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Ronan McKnight

Ronan McKnight
Project Title: 
Unveiling Conserved Evolutionary Branching Traits among Agricultural Grass Species
Program Year: 
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Madelaine Bartlett

Over the course of the summer, I was able to work in the Bartlett lab on a project that focused on conserved evolutionary branching traits among agricultural grass species, specifically with Zea mays and the model grass species, Brachypodium distachyon. While the maize was still growing in the fields at the beginning of the summer, I primarily focused on finishing up modular cloning for Brachypodium distachyon gene editing. The gene allele that I was working on was grassy tillers1 (gt1), which generally causes tillering in grass species as it is a conserved gene sequence from the distant relative of domesticated maize, teosinte.

Once the maize was old enough to collect leaf tissue samples, I began DNA extraction, which allowed me to do PCR, genotyping, and barcoding, which will still have to be sequenced before each sample's genotype is known. In addition to that, I helped phenotype the maize by counting how many ears were on a plant, if there was a husk leaf, and if there was tillering, the height of the plant, in addition to how many tillers were present and each tiller’s height. While all of the field work was able to be completed during the summer, the remainder of the analysis and infographic work will still need to be carried out during the fall semester.