The UCF Plant Breeding Initiative is a joint venture of the Mason Lab and the UCF campus chapter of the Botanical Society of America, a registered student organization. Students may participate through the EXCEL/COMPASS program for Spring 2022 assisting with the phenotyping of a 93 cultivar Capsicum pepper diversity panel spanning five species and a broad range of phenotypic diversity in fruit size, shape, color, and flavor. Students will work as one or more small teams to assist with the development of short-term applied breeding projects to develop new pepper cultivars using approaches like hybridization, artificial selection, untargeted mutagenesis, or induced polyploidy. Student will learn skills in plant growth, phenotyping, reproductive biology/crossing, applied breeding techniques, and possibly working with genetic data. Students should expect to commit at least 10 hours per week to research, occurring primarily in the Mason Lab hoophouses (on Ara Drive), or in the Mason Lab (Biology building). The hoophouses are each 2000 sqft open-air structures. Hours will be flexible. Ideally, students should be available for two semesters at minimum (both Spring and Summer 2021) to get the most out of this research experience (e.g. able to lead cultivar development through multiple generations). Given the small number of plant science labs at UCF relative to animal/biomedical labs, students seeking a research career in the plant sciences and allied fields (botany, ecology/evolution, plant genetics, agriculture, horticulture, biotechnology, etc) will be given preference for positions.
Start Date: 1/10/2022 - End Date: 4/27/2022
Type of Project
Unlike many labs, the Mason lab is eager to recruit students early in their time at UCF so that students have the ability to develop skillsets over time. There are no required courses or preferences given to students based on their courses taken. Likewise, no specific skills are required. That being said, courses in statistics, genetics, plant science, ecology, and evolution would all be beneficial. The main requirements of students are an enthusiasm for plants, science, and research, and a willingness to work with others toward a common goal. In addition, creativity, motivation, and self-drive are key.
Students will need to take this experience seriously as an opportunity for professional training in plant science research. That being said, research can also be a lot of fun. Students will need to be available at least 10 hours per week on average, and will be responsible for working with living organisms (plants) who are vulnerable to harm/death if neglected - therefore, sticking to a schedule and providing consistent care is very important. Reliably making planned meetings and shifts and keeping a careful record of activities is very important. Overall, students will be entrusted with portions of real ongoing research, though of course this is a learning experience such that student involvement will be tailored such that students cannot jeopardize long-term efforts (that is, students will not be penalized for mistakes made in good faith - we all grow through failure!). Day-to-day work will likely involve growing plants, taking measurements, and analyzing data.
Interested in Working With the Following Programs
For EXCEL URE Students Only
Potential funding via EXCEL/COMPASS