Understanding the Early Shapes of Plants

Byron Brook, a student enrolled in the joint co-op UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program, worked mostly with Sitka spruce embryonic tissue in the summer of 2010.

The goal was to understand control of the spacing of cotyledons (the embryo’s first needles) around a spruce embryo. The diameters of the embryos were observed, and then compared to the number of cotyledons that the embryo formed. The resulting statistical information will be analyzed in terms of mathematical theories for how cotyledons are spaced in the embryos.

The embryos were observed over six to eight weeks. Therefore, sterile culturing was essential. Byron Brook’s research was a continuation of the work of two other students, Cameron Wong and Tammy Kang, both from the UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program. Continuing the research allowed for a faster transition into the study and also for more time investigating the controlling factors behind the spacing.

The research was directed towards observing the effects on cotyledon spacing from a chemical that inhibits the diffusion of a naturally occurring hormone (auxin).

This can tell us the degree to which the hormone is involved in normal patterning of the cotyledons.

 Byron was supervised by Dr. David Holloway of the BCIT Mathematics Department, and received support from the Undergraduate Student Research Assistant program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Special thanks are due to Keith Turner and the Biotechnology faculty, whose experience and expertise aided the research. The use of the Biotechnology facilities, including equipment purchased with financial assistance from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF), also helped to make this research possible.