Marisa Miller | Hybrid Vigor


Explaining my Research

Hybrid vigor is the improvement of any biological quality in hybrid offspring. For example, hybrid plants like corn grow larger and more vigorously than their parents. Hybrid vigor is a widespread phenomenon that has intrigued many scientists including Charles Darwin who characterized growth vigor in plants of many species. Hybrid vigor is also seen in embryo development and reproductive traits in mammals. This extraordinary occurrence has been crucial to agriculture for more than a century but the underlying mechanisms are still unknown. Recently, our lab demonstrated that the increased growth of hybrid plants is related to changes in daily rhythms that control many aspects of plant growth.

In my research, I am investigating how stress responses in plants are controlled by daily rhythms and whether this knowledge can be used to create hybrids that are more vigorous. A better understanding of the molecular basis of hybrid vigor will ultimately help improve productivity of crops. Estimates indicate more food will need to be produced in the next fifty years than in the entire history of our species. This will have to be accomplished with an increasing human population and steadily decreasing arable land. Increasing crop yields will be essential to feeding the growing population, and improved hybrids will be one important solution to this challenge.

How did you become involved with “Present your PhD Thesis to a 12 year-old” project?

When I heard about the program I knew that this would be a great opportunity to do this--encourage plant biology as a career choice--and to also improve upon my ability to explain my research in a clear and straightforward manner.

What is your goal introducing such a project/topic to young students?

My goal is to show young people that studying plants is a worthwhile career choice and extremely important for the future of our planet!

Peter Enyeart

About the Ph.D. Thesis

Regulation of circadian rhythms and growth vigor in Arabidopsis hybrids and polyploids

Growing Around the Clock

My Research

The Chen Laboratory

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