SOAR Student Profiles

Sarah Garris

Sarah Garris

  • SOAR Position: Member; Alumni
  • Major: Biology
  • Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. John DuBois

Current Focus: Comparison of Media Components for Somatic Embryogenesis in Tissue Callus of Vitis aestivalis ‘Norton/Cynthiana’

Additional Interests: painting, roller skating, and hiking

Project Description

Vitis aestivalis, a cold and disease resistant North American grapevine that produces pleasant wine, fails 80% – 90% of traditional propagation attempts. Tissue culture has the potential to improve propagation of Vitis aestivalis. Tissue culture generates undifferentiated cells called callus, which can be used to produce embryogenesis. Previous studies that attempted embryogenesis compared nutritional salts Lloyd & McCown (LM) with Murashige & Skoog (MS), with contradictory results. This study compared the effects of nutritional salts, proportions of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), and 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP) to determine an optimum medium to promote healthy callus growth with minimal cell death. Media containing MS salts had less contamination and better callus growth. MS media with proportions of BAP greater than 0.25 µL showed improved callus growth and some accelerated cell death. Novel ratios of kinetin and 2,4-D in semi-solid media over an extended time frame resulted in the growth of roots on several plates.

Why does this topic interest you?

I had the opportunity to work with the Department of Food Sciences at Cornell University on their VitisGen2 project. This multi-university, cross-country project assessed grape genetics from the European Vitis vinifera family in an attempt to connect favorable traits like cold hardiness, pest resistance, and disease resistance to their specific genetic sequences. I was part of the fruit quality team that assessed each sample for qualities like titratable acidity, Brix levels, and volatile compounds. This project was my first introduction to academic lab work, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the ability to transfer what I learned into another project.

What are your professional aspirations?

After graduation, I'd like to attend medical school and specialize in either infectious disease or general surgery. There's no particular region of the U.S. I'd prefer to practice in, but after establishing myself in a practice, I'd like to work with short-term global medical missions and underserved communities.

Do you have any advice for future researchers?

Beginning a research project can seem like a big, intimidating, impossible project, but there's always people around that are available and willing to help. Because they've been where you are, your research advisor and fellow student researchers might have an answer to the problem that you haven't thought of.

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