Associate Professor, Biology Department, UMass Amherst
Director, UMass Natural History Collections
My lab is focused on figuring out the genetics underlying the evolution of plant development. I am particularly intrigued by floral development, and the evolution of the genes and gene networks that underly floral morphology.
Comfort Bonney Arku
I received a BSc (2003) and an MPhil (2006) in Botany from the University of Ghana, Legon. Following my masters, I worked for many years at the University of Ghana’s Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) as a Research Assistant. In the US, I trained and worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant. In a quest to return to grad school, I’m currently working as a Lab Manager and gaining hands-on experience in plant genetics and molecular biology. I’m considering a PhD in genetics and molecular biology.
I have been involved in maize research since I was an undergraduate. I am passionate and committed to a career understanding the molecular mechanisms which regulate growth and development of agricultural plants, especially corn. I finished my PhD at East Carolina University in Dr. Beth Thompson’s Lab working on floral development and translation regulation by microRNAs in maize. In the Bartlett lab, we combine computational data analysis with CRISPR/Cas9 and molecular techniques to understand how gene expression of developmental genes are regulated and how they have evolved in the grasses.
Amber De Neve
I'm interested in the genetic pathways underlying plant form and function. Plants are amazing at adapting their growth to their environments, and sometimes this means being flexible with the sexuality of their flowers. Trillium grandiflorium, for example, grows wild in Amherst and has size-dependent floral sexual specification. Interestingly, many mutations in maize also cause changes to both plant architecture and floral sexuality. I'm currently using mutants and evolutionary analysis to see how these two aspects are related in the grass family.
My research is focused on examining the evolution of plant development, with a specific focus on genomic architecture. Plant morphology is diverse across species, but is controlled by conserved genes and regulatory networks. However, the extent to which cis-regulatory elements have been conserved across evolutionary time remains unclear. My recent work in the Bartlett lab has been focused on dissecting the function of cis-regulatory elements in Brachypodium distachyon. Understanding the genetic networks underlying plant development would overcome a barrier towards applying genome editing in crop domestication and agricultural improvement.
I’m interested in exploring the evolution of development in plants. As Dobzhansky said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, and this holds true for development. I’m currently studying a mutation in an unidentified gene in Brachypodium distachyon that results in highly pleiotropic phenotypic changes. This system will allow us to examine the mechanisms by which a single gene is able to affect multiple developmental processes.
High School Interns
Interested in joining the lab?
If you're interesting in joining the lab as a grad student, consider applying through the plant biology, molecular and cellular biology, or organismal and evolutionary biology graduate programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. If you're a postdoc or an undergraduate wanting to work in the Bartlett lab, please get in touch via email.