Welcome to The Lab!

Spears Lab presenting at ASPB Midwest- 2023 in Ames, IA

Why are we here?
Motivation for scientific research can be wildly different between individuals, especially at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI). One might need the experience and training as a step towards their career goals, another might be interesting in changing the world, and someone else might be just drawn to the pursuit of knowledge. And that’s ok! Members of the Spears Lab are unified by the common thread of interest in the following lab tenets:

  • We will  learn to ask and design a way to answer scientific questions
  • We will learn to effectively communicate our findings in/outside the scientific community
  • We will learn to think critically about ours and our peers’ data
  • We will maintain a respectful and inclusive community in our space and our field

What do we do?
Being a plant is hard. They’re subjected to a continuous barrage of stresses (negative) or other environmental signals (positive or neutral) and must be able to ‘interpret’ and respond to these signals effectively to thrive in their growing environments. These responses often come in the form of ‘trade-offs’ at the genetic level that is reflected in physiology.

A classic example: In a world with limited resources and time, how does a plant decide whether to activate an immune response to potential microbial threats, or to use those resources to grow and develop as an organism?

On an even finer level, we’d like to know how proteins that oversee these ‘switches’ are themselves regulated, transcriptionally and post-translationally.

To answer questions like this, our lab uses common molecular biology techniques such as:

  • Protein biochemistry and immunoblotting
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • CRISPR and transgenic complementation
  • Molecular cloning and construct generation

in model plants like Arabidopsis thaliana (Mouse-ear cress), Physcomitrium patens (moss), and Nicotiana benthamiana (Tobacco).

Available Research Positions
If you’re interested in being a part of the team, don’t hesitate to contact me!  We are continually accepting curious and motivated students to work on all of the projects described above, and have annual opportunities to support paid summer research in the lab.