Wayne Curtis and Antonios Armaou

Crop Protection using 'Gene Therapy' in the Field

This project involves protecting crops by delivering 'therapeutic' genes for plant stress (e.g. disease, drought, etc.) by using insect to deliver that DNA using a deconstructed virus.  Our goal is to not only create this system, but to generate predictive models of the process starting at the molecular level of assembly of the virus with therapeutic genes, encapsidation with coat protein, uptake by the insect, then delivery of genes to plants as they feed on the plants.  This project will include a breadth of research in terms of obtaining data (both from literature and in the lab) that will be the components of this crop protection technology.  The student will have the opportunity to learn methods of molecular biology as well as tissue culture, genetic transformation and (if desired) working with insects.

Insect infection to induce therapy: modeling disease progression

This project investigates the delivery of beneficial genes carried by viral agents to plants in a field, using insects. The research will involve development of predictive models that quantitatively describe the stages of the progression of this “beneficial infection” (virus assembly, insect uptake, insect dispersion and feeding).  Modeling the progression of gene delivery by this beneficial infection is important towards synthesizing appropriate strategies for crop protection. The student will be involved with identifying and using (a) epidemiological models to find how the insects will deliver the virus to the plants of the field and (b) infection plant models to quantify how virus transmission to the plant leads to an established infection. He/she will be exposed to a multitude of process systems engineering concepts and methods, such as data assimilation, system identification and analysis.

Faculty Research Links

Contact Information

Esther Gomez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
REU Program Coordinator

Manish Kumar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering
REU Program Coordinator

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