My research interests are in plant reproductive biology, specifically on interspecific incompatibility of Nicotiana species. Pre-zygotic interactions between pollen and the pistil act first after pollination to regulate pollen tube growth and can reduce or eliminate gene flow, effectively preventing species hybridization. My current research is centered on engineering incompatibility system to eliminate gene flow by developing engineered pollen, which is not able to properly develop on incompatible plants. This approach will eliminate gene flow between genetically modified plants (GMO) and conventional or organic crops.
Other areas of research are the pistil-produced arabinogalactan proteins (AGPs) that regulate self and interspecific pollen tube growth in Nicotiana spp. I collaborate on identifying the function of this diverse group of proteins and the mechanisms through which they regulate pollen tube growth. I am also involved in a long-term project to produce non-invasive varieties of popular, but invasive landscape plants.
My research investigates fundamental concepts in the regulation of pollen tube growth, cell–cell interactions, plant speciation and fertilization. Direct outcomes include a better understanding of the regulation of pollen tube growth through the pistil and gene flow between transgenic plants and other plants. I also contribute to the teaching of two classes, including lectures and design of laboratory exercises.