Horticulture Projects

What project will you work on during your internship as a Summer Research Scholar? You should choose three (3) projects from the list below and note them in order of preference (e.g., 2, 4, 1) at the top of the APPLICATION FORM. We will do our best to accommodate your top choice.

Faculty members associated with each project are also listed. You can read more about their programs by clicking on their names.

1. Space saving columnar apple trees!

Apple TreesAlthough most apple trees branch and grow rapidly in size, there are compact ones, called columnar apple trees, which are slow in growth, have little branching, and require less space and pruning in orchards. Join us in the ongoing hunt to uncover the columnar genes, while learning basic techniques in plant genomics, such as DNA and RNA isolation, DNA sequencing, and gene expression analysis.
Lab 80%, Field: 20% Faculty: Xu


2. Sex determination in willow

Willow BudOur lab conducts breeding and genomics of shrub willow as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy and biofuels. Willow is dioecious (plants are either male or female), and we have mapped the locus that genetically determines sex in our reference species.  The field component will involve collecting male and female individuals of native willows to map the genes that control sex and to elucidate the mechanism of sex determination and sex-based differences in plant performance or vigor.
Lab: 60%, Field: 40% Faculty: L. Smart


3. That can’t be an apple tree!!

Apple TreeMost apples are Malus x domestica or cultivated apple, but there are over 25 Malus species that can be used in breeding or to study the genes influencing plant architecture, leaf morphology and flowering. When these species are crossed, apple interspecific hybrids are created. This project will explore the phenotypic and genotypic diversity of some of these hybrids. Study of these unique plants will change your view of what an apple tree should look like.
60% field, 40% laboratory Faculty: Brown


4. Mapping resistance to pests of willow

willow leafCertain cultivars of shrub willow bioenergy crops are very sensitive to a common insect pest, potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae), which causes leaf curling and tip dieback called ‘hopperburn’. We have a mapping population that is segregating for susceptibility to potato leafhopper and willow leaf beetle.  You will survey these mapping populations and map QTL for resistance to better understand the genetic basis of potato leafhopper and beetle resistance in willow.
Lab/greenhouse: 70% Field: 30% Faculty: L. Smart


5. Biodiversity of vegetables

biodiversityExplore the diversity and natural colors in vegetable crops and how they can contribute to aesthetics and nutrition.  You will work in both the greenhouse and field with an applied breeding program to identify and select new plants with diverse colors and shapes.  The summer scholar experience will also include an opportunity to evaluate phytochemical profiles and how they influence plant nutrition and color. 
Lab/Greenhouse: 70% Field: 30% Faculty: Griffiths


6. Do you like sour apples?

ApplesWhich apple(s) do you like the most? The traditional McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonagold or new apple varieties such as Honeycrisp, New York 1 and New York 2, and why? Your answers may vary widely, but fruit sourness (acidity) or sweetness is most likely among the factors that affect your preference. Wondering about what apple fruit acidity is, how widely fruit acidity levels may vary in apple, what causes fruit acidity, and how fruit acidity is determined at the genetic and molecular levels? Please come and have a bite of one of our research projects that studies apple fruit acidity!
Lab 80%, Field: 20% Faculty: Xu


7. Marker-assisted selection in willow

Willow FieldMarker-assisted selection for traits like disease resistance and morphological traits can dramatically speed up breeding. You will take QTL mapping data from willow trials and develop tools for marker-assisted selection of key genes related to biomass yield and disease resistance in willow. By the end of the summer, you will have characterized some of the underlying genetic factors controlling complex traits.
Lab: 70% Field: 30% Faculty: L. Smart


8. Apple trees grow horizontally

apple tree growing horizontallyApple trees grow upward normally. However, the picture shows that an apple tree can grow horizontally. It would certainly cause headaches if such trees were grown in apple orchard. Can we learn something from ‘the bad and the ugly’ and then make something good out it? The answer is YES as understanding the underlying genetics and genomics will provide useful information for making apple trees grow with optimum architecture. The mystery of horizontally growing apple trees is being revealed, but much remains unknown. Want to be part of our mystery solving team?
Lab 80%; field or greenhouse: 20% Faculty: Xu