Make The Connection

October 3, 2022 | By Cole Hatcher

Carly Sanders ’24 anticipates pursuing a career in plant biology and worked over the summer in professor Chris Wolverton’s lab on his NASA-funded plant-gravity research. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

‘Making Real Strides’

Ohio Wesleyan Student Works to Identify Genes Affecting Plant Gravity Response

Name: Carly Sanders ’24
Hometown: Painesville, Ohio
Majors: Botany and Biochemistry
Minor: Black World Studies
OWU Connection Experience: Summer Science Research Program

Sanders participated in Ohio Wesleyan’s annual 10-week Summer Science Research Program (SSRP) and studied “The Influence of Nitrate Reductases on Gravitational Response in Arabidopsis Thaliana” under the mentorship of Chris Wolverton, Ph.D., professor of Biological Sciences.

What I Researched

“Before plants are able to use nitrogen, an essential nutrient, they must first change its form. Two genes in Arabidopsis thaliana are known to be key players in the first steps of this process but are also thought to be involved in an alternative gravity response pathway.

“By using plants that are confirmed to have a non-working copy of these two genes, it can be determined if and how these genes are interacting with gravity. These results can be used to understand how plants respond to gravity, which will contribute to the ability to grow plants in environments with lesser gravity, such as in space.”

My Favorite Moments

“My favorite part of work is being able to make discoveries that feel truly important to the scientific community. Oftentimes, there are so many small elements to research that it seems like what you are doing is so minuscule. However, being able to work in Dr. Wolverton’s lab feels like I could actually be making real strides in the understanding of the gravity response pathway in plants.”

Lessons Learned

“My main goal for the summer as part of SSRP was to determine whether working in a research lab is something that I would like to be part of my future career. I have always enjoyed lab work, but the freedom of exploration that comes with working in a real lab has definitely solidified what I would like my next steps to be after Ohio Wesleyan.”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

“I chose Ohio Wesleyan because I was looking for a school that offered a botany major. I fell in love with OWU because of the small school atmosphere that is stretched across a larger campus.”

My Plans After Graduation

“After graduation, I plan to take a few years off to explore what I can do with all of the knowledge I have gained from my time at OWU and then attend graduate school to earn my Ph.D. in the field of plant biology.

“Ohio Wesleyan has given me the confidence I need to work toward my goals, as well as providing me with support in every aspect of my academic career.”