Congratulations to Samantha Surber, a PhD student in the Tsai lab, on being awarded a 2022 Rockey FFAR Fellowship. This three-year fellowship, sponsored by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and North Carolina State University, includes mentoring, professional development, and career guidance by professional leaders in academia and industry.
Samantha’s research focuses on the role of sulfur in the stress response of woody plants. Sulfur is an essential nutrient for living organisms and has been shown to reduce plant stress under drought and other environmental stress conditions. However, it is unclear how this applies to woody plants like poplar, an important crop for biofuels. Samantha is investigating the function of two specific genes involved in sulfate metabolism of wood forming tissues. She uses CRISPR-Cas9 to knock out these genes and observe the effects on cell wall synthesis and stress response. Ultimately this research will contribute to our understanding of how sulfur may mediate the response of woody plants to climate change.