Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Anna Petrovicheva

Project Title: City as Lab
Thesis: Factors involved in attachment of Agrobacterium tumefaciens to plants
College/University: City University of New York - Brooklyn College
Research Advisor: Theodore R. Muth
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Biology - Molecular, Cell and Developmental
Department: Biology
Research Focus: Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the causal agent of Crown Gall disease, focusing on primary adhesion steps of infection in plants
Teaching Partner(s): Amy DeFelice, Dave Johnston

Description of Research

Agrobacterium tumefaciens causes crown gall disease, a disease affecting several varieties of fruit trees and grapes. A. tumefaciens transfers virulence genes and proteins into susceptible host cells. The transferred virulence genes and proteins cause infected cells to form undifferentiated tumors. The virulence is controlled by a plasmid that can be modified to contain any gene of interest instead of the tumor causing genes. Recently, this unique ability of A. tumefaciens to transform plants has been used by researchers to generate important transgenic crops as plants can be generated from transformed plant tissue culture. One of the primary steps of this transformation process is adhesion of the bacterial cells to plants. The factors involved in this are not fully known. Our goal is to identify these adhesion factors in both plants and A. tumefaciens.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

My work is in both microbiology and botany so I took things I learned in my studies and applied it to several class projects. One was an ethnobotany project I did with the Science Research Class. This involved students studying plants as food and medicine, discussing issues surrounding organic food and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), which relates to the implications of my research work. In addition, they tracked the spread of plants through human migration and went through the process of medicine creation and approval by their classmates based on their safety determination of the possible side effects provided by the presenters. In addition, my biology knowledge is used to enrich the Living Environment and AP Biology curriculum with lessons that fit the curriculum, but add some enrichment to their studies, such as working with them on their transformation of E. coli lab, which I do as part of my work, and creating a genetic phenotype lab for the students’ family using single gene traits.