Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Fernando Trent Diaz SURF SMART

Seed Germination and Microbe Occupation: How Do Seed Microbe Communities Differ across Plant Species and What Does It Mean for Plant Health?

The development of seeds and seedlings represent perhaps the most critical stage of a plants life. Within and on seeds live a multitude of bacteria and microfungi that can either deteriorate (pathogens) or improve (mutualists) seedling health. Seed microbes can be transmitted from both the surrounding environment (horizontal transmission) as well as from their mother plant (vertical transmission). This maternal inheritance gives seed microbes priority in the colonization of plant tissue once germination occurs. This can significantly affect the trajectory for future adult plant microbiome composition and plant health. The larger project with which my research is affiliated is focused on this idea of seed microbe inheritance and looks to see how transmission of microbes differs across plant species. Overarching themes of the project include mechanisms of vertical seed microbe transmission (mother to offspring), seed microbe community assembly, and application of beneficial seed microbes to increase plant health. My specific goals for this project include: 1) Measuring seed traits across various plant species (permeability, seed coat thickness, and nutrient content), 2) Isolating bacteria and microfungi from these various seeds, and 3) Analyzing what seed traits affect microbe transmission and composition.

Message To Sponsor

I want to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Johnson Fund for sponsoring my summer research. The experience of collaborating with talented and hardworking peers and mentors has helped me grow as both a scholar and person. My understanding and love for the art of research has grown tremendously -- allowing me to better appreciate vast work that goes into each research paper. The program has helped me cement my passion and drive to further explore research as a career path. It is difficult to express in words how much I appreciate the support and how large of an impact this program had on me. Again, thank you for the opportunity to have participated in this wonderful program!
Profile image of Fernando Trent Diaz
Major: Molecular Cell Biology
Mentor: Mason Chock
Sponsor: Johnson Fund
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