E&H Professor of Biology Christy Fleet Researches Orchid DNA

Posted by Christy Fleet
Dr. Christine Fleet, Professor of Biology at Emory & Henry College, began piecing together the DNA story of P. fragrans, a beautiful but under-studied orchid, as part of her fall 2021 sabbatical research.

“Across the thousands of species of orchid, there is a very specific toolkit of genes they all have,” Fleet explains. “So, if all plants are working with the same toolkit to make a flower, how do you get all these different kinds of flowers?”

P. fragrans P. fragransHer research has applications in plant-pollinator interactions, as some species differences are related to “what’s pollinating that flower and what pollinators it’s attracting,” she says. Additionally, she noted that the study of flowers has “serious economic interest in the horticulture industry.”

Through a process called “genome sequencing”—which she says is like reading the instruction book for a species—Fleet utilized newly developed skills and advanced software applications to analyze the genetic data of P. fragrans. While she did not complete the genome assembly this past fall, she said she found enough data to lend her work to others for continued study, especially undergraduates whom she mentors in her program.

“It is exciting to be able to do genomics at a small college, and to have the time and access to resources to play around in that world,” she says.

During her sabbatical, Fleet also conducted research to improve the effectiveness of first-year science courses taught in the Natural Sciences Division at Emory & Henry.

“We had lots of questions about how we teach sciences and make it as inclusive as possible,” Fleet says, explaining that sometimes students encounter imposter syndrome–a feeling of not belonging in science fields. “If students don’t come away from a first-year science course feeling welcomed or capable, we need to explore approaches and resources that will help them succeed in the field.”

Fleet, entering her seventeenth year at the college, says she is grateful to be part of a community that works “to create the best learning environment we can.”

  • Dr. Christy Fleet in the E&H Greenhouse

“It is exciting to be able to do genomics at a small college, and to have the time and access to resources to play around in that world.”

-Dr. Christy Fleet

Location:

McGlothlin-Street Hall