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Department of Plant Pathology

Research & Extension Experiences for UndergraduatesResearch & Extension Experiences for UndergraduatesResearch & Extension Experiences for UndergraduatesResearch & Extension Experiences for UndergraduatesResearch & Extension Experiences for Undergraduates
Department of Plant Pathology
Kansas State University
1712 Claflin Road
4024 Throckmorton PSC
Manhattan, KS 66506

Ph: +1-785-532-6176
Fx: +1-785-532-5692

2023 Projects 

 

Note - Projects may be subject to slight changes if research priorities evolve in the mentor lab before the start of the program. 

You will list three projects on your APPLICATION FORM. We cannot guarantee that you will be placed in one of your top three selections, but your selections will help us place students in projects that are a good match for their interests.

You do not need to already have the skills mentioned in the project descriptions, just an interest to learn. You will gain hands-on training during the program.

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Gene editing to develop improved wheat varieties

CRISPR/CAS9 technology can be used to rapidly generate new variants of genes with improved function. We use CAS9 technology to edit wheat genes that can increase yield and disease resistance, and improve nutritional quality. Intern will be involved in selecting genes that affect positively these traits in wheat, designing CRISPR/CAS9 reagents for gene editing using bioinformatical tools, and testing these reagents using next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies available at the KSU Integrated Genomics Facility. The student will conduct these experiments as part of the gene editing projects aimed at improving wheat traits.

60% lab, 40% computer.

Mentors:Wei Wang and Eduard Akhunov

 

Genome Engineering in fungi using CRISPR-Casdavid-cook

Have you heard about Genome Engineering or CRISPR-Cas and want to learn more? Maybe you know the basics details and you want to get some hands-on experience creating targeted DNA alterations to a genome. Complete an internship in the Cook lab as part of the K-State REEU program and you'll have the opportunity to learn out this exciting new technology and a whole lot more. You will learn basic microbiology techniques, some mycology, molecular biology, and about genetically modified organisms. You will leave with proficiency and knowledge about DNA editing using CRISPR and be on your way to changing the future!

Areas: Genome engineering, mycology, molecular-biology, CRISPR-Cas, plant pathology

Mentor: David Cook

 

Synthetic Biology to Make Super Seeds

 Seeds function as powerful biosynthetic factories that convert photosynthetically derived sugars into storage lipids, proteins and carbohydrates. My research group uses synthetic biology approaches to genetically modify metabolism so that seeds can produce novel compounds with functionalities useful for different applications. One particular focus involves modifying the chemical structure of vegetable oil to make a better, low-viscosity biofuel. You will have the opportunity to learn a variety of synthetic biology methods, including rapid assembly of gene constructs, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and plant transformation, as well as different biochemical methods to quantify lipids and amino acids in the modified seeds.

 Lab 100%

Mentor: Tim Durrett

 

Let’s Make Better Wheat 

Let’s help wheat fight off pests! Come help screen wheat breeding populations for pathogen and disease resistance to find the genetic factors that help produce our favorite breads and cereals. The intern will select resistant wheat to certain wheat pathogens, and using high throughput sequencing and genotyping techniques identify genetic regions involved in plant resistance using current bioinformatics tools. These genetic factors will be transferred into our breeding programs for improved wheat for future deployment and development. 

Greenhouse 20%, Lab 30%, Computer 50% 

Mentor: Katherine Jordan

 
tania kim

Crop diversity effects on pest and beneficial insects

Crop plants are vulnerable to pest infestation. As such, the US spends $12.5 billion/year for pesticides, however, more sustainable measures are needed to control pest outbreak.  For example, planting different crop types or varieties can reduce the likelihood of damage to target crop plants. For this project, we will examine how crop diversity (monocultures versus polycultures, annual versus perennial crop species) affects the likelihood of infestation and damage by pests such as aphids.  We will also examine how crop diversity affects the likelihood of colonization of important predatory insects (e.g. lady beetles) that naturally feed on aphids and pollinators.

Field 50%/Greenhouse 25%/Lab 25%.

Mentor: Tania Kim

 
dal hoe

Cytogenetics of alien gene transfer in wild wheat

Just like we all have some interesting relatives, wheat has some wild in-laws of its own! Bread wheat was domesticated in Central Asia around Iran and Iraq and the wild relatives can still be found there today. Though they don’t really even look like wheat and aren’t any good for making bread, the wild relatives have important genes for disease resistance. Using chromosome engineering and bioinformatics, we are transferring these useful genes into wheat to make stronger wheat plants that are resistant to disease and other stress.

Areas: genetics and genomics, plant breeding, plant pathology, cytogenetics.

Greenhouse 25%/Lab 75%.

Mentor: Dal-Hoe Koo 

 

Weed Management

 Weeds are one of the greatest challenges farmers have. Weed scientists work to find effective and economical soluweedtions to farmers’ weed management challenges and share that information with farmers and agribusinesses. In this internship, students will have the opportunity to work in the field on projects related to herbicide evaluation as well as nonchemical weed management practices. In addition, students will have the opportunity to participate in Extension-related activities, including summarizing data. If you enjoy biology or chemistry, gathering information, working outdoors, and helping people, this internship might be for you!

80% Field, 20% Lab + Greenhouse

 

Mentor: Sarah Lancaster

 

Genome mapping of plant pathogens 

 

Genome sequencing technology has become an important tool for understanding evolution, genetic bases

Liulab

of phenotypic traits, pathogen diagnosis, and crop improvement. In this project, you will use a cutting-edge genome sequencing technolo

gy to sequence pathogens that cause plant diseases. The project aims to understand how pathogens evolve and how genomic changes influence pathogenicity and virulence. Through this internship, you will learn basic molecular biology, genetics, and bioinformatics. In particular, you will learn command-line based data visualization and high-performance computing for analyzing large data, which will provide a valuable interdisciplinary learning opportunity. 

 

Lab 40%/Computational work 60% 

 

Mentor: Sanzhen Liu

 

 Are Wheat Wild Ancestors Game Changers to Combat Plant Viral Diseases? 

 Crop Wild Relatives are cousins of our cultivated crops still found growing in natural ecosystems. Since their genetic diversity is much higher than cultivated crops, they are considered as a promising source for crop improvement including plant resistance/tolerance to pests and pathogens. Wheat Streak Mosaic (WSM) is one of the most economically important viral diseases of wheat causing significant yield losses globally. The WSM complex is associated with several documented viruses. Although the use of current resistant varieties is promising, resistance-breaking virus isolates have been recently reported. Hence, it is crucial to continue searching for alternative resistance or tolerance from different sources including wheat wild relatives such as Aegilops tauschii. This research project explores a large panel of Ae. tauschii genotypes for resistance/tolerance to WSM viruses through phenotypic and genotypic assessments. The results of this study will help to improve wheat germplasm for viral resistance/tolerance. As an intern in the Nouri lab, you will learn virology, molecular biology, and microscopy techniques. You also have an opportunity to learn some computational biology skills.  

Areas: Plant Virology, Virus Evolution, Molecular Biology, Confocal Microscopy. 

Mentor: Shahideh Nouri

 
y park

Insect hormone disruptors

Park team focuses on the development of new tools to disrupt insect endocrine system based on the knowledge of hormone receptors revealed in comparative genomics. Current project includes high throughput screening of chemical compounds that act on insect specific ecdysis triggering hormone receptor and mite specific neuropeptide receptors. Students will be trained for molecular biology and data analyses of bioassay depending on the background and the interests of the students assigned. Most of all, the students will have opportunities to play with arthropods, learn the fun biology, and perform modern molecular techniques to solve the problems in pest control.

Mentor: Yoonseong Park

 
deann presley

Going undercover

Cover crops are used to prevent erosion and improve soil structure and have the added benefit of increasing the plant biodiversity of a cropping system. Does increasing biodiversity aboveground lead to increased biodiversity belowground, and if so, how does it affect the plant pathogenic organisms? In this project, you will collect measurements in the field and soil sample experiments with and without cover crops to determine if there are any effects of cover crops on soil health.

50%, Field, 50% Lab.

Mentor: DeAnn Presley

 
Picking scab
 
The Applied Wheat Pathology Lab at Kansas State University focuses on economically important pathogens in wheat. One of those pathogens - head scab (also called Fusarium head blight or FHB) is of particular interest because it results not only in high amounts of yield loss, but also can make the wheat inedible. The pathogen, Fusarium graminearum, makes a toxin that can make people and animals sick. During your time in our lab, you will help us develop our diverse collection of F. graminearum from fields across the state of Kansas. This work will include learning sterile microbiology techniques to isolate and grow the fungus from wheat seeds. In addition to work in the laboratory, you will learn to phenotype the disease in our FHB nurseries, and participate in wheat harvest.
 
50% lab 50% field
 

Mentor: Jessica Rupp

 

Squish that bug! Improving insect pest control methods with molecular biology

Insect pests cause direct damage to crops and livestock and also vector pathogens that can cause serious veterinary and medical health problems. Typical management practices involve use of conventional chemical insecticides but increasing reports of resistance to these insecticides as well as increasing concern over their environmental impact are driving the development of novel strategies for insect pest control. The Silver laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular interactions of insecticides with their target sites as well as identifying new physiological mechanisms that can be exploited for insect pest control. Current projects include analyzing the effects of arbovirus infection on feeding and host-seeking behavior in mosquitoes and biting midges and understanding the mechanisms of RNA interference for development as a tool for controlling biting midge larvae and other insect pests. Interns will have the opportunity to learn molecular biology techniques, live cell imaging, cell culture, RNA interference, and/or insect behavioral assays while working alongside lab personnel and will develop independent research projects depending on their research interests.

100% Lab

Mentor: Kristopher Silver

 

Super plants... 

The advanced modern biotechnology changed many aspects in agriculture. Recent rapidly developed genome editing technology such CRISPR/Cas9 is changing the world in agriculture as well as human medicine. In this project, you will learn how to design, construct, and use engineered plasmid vectors to introduce new traits by expressing genes and/or genome editing in plants (wheat or soybean). You will gain knowledge about the interaction between viral pathogen and plant host. You will gain skills in molecular biology, plant transformation and micropropagation, as well as DNA/RNA extraction, and virus biology, virus detection and analysis. 

Lab: 80%, Greenhouse 20% 

Mentor: Harold Trick