Student Project: Conifer Morphogenesis

Michael Wu, a student in the joint UBC-BCIT Biotechnology program, worked with Sitka spruce embryos over the summer of 2011. The goal was to understand how the spacing of cotyledons (the embryo’s first needles) is controlled, and in general how tissues form in the correct positions in embryos. The diameters of the embryos were measured and compared to the number of cotyledons formed. This data is being used to test mathematical theories for how cotyledons are spaced.

Michael extended work started by three previous students: Byron Brook, Tammy Kang, and Cameron Wong. This involved learning how to maintain and induce embryo cultures, and to make quantitative measurements of embryo size. Michael conducted a series of experiments to test whether the plant hormone auxin has a role in cotyledon spacing. He also started new experiments to see how temperature might affect spacing.

Michael 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 (NSERC).
“Not only did NSERC support the project financially, but it also inspired me to be innovative and incorporate my own ideas into the research,” said Wu. "Also, thanks to David Holloway, Keith Turner, Sarah McLeod and the Biotechnology faculty, whose expertise was greatly appreciated. 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), helped make this research possible."