Dr. Engstrom worked in the Department of Biology until 2012.
Assistant Professor at The College of William and Mary since August 2005. B.A., Biology, Reed College, May 1993. Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Stanford University, June 2002.
My laboratory studies mechanisms of intercellular communication underlying plant development and the evolution of developmental pathways. Plants exhibit an indeterminate pattern of growth, characterized by the continuous generation of organs throughout the life of the organism. Leaves and floral organs are derived from shoot meristems, populations of pluripotent cells located at shoot apicies. Organs arise from cells on the meristem flank. Cells on the meristem flank are replaced, and the structure of the meristem maintained, by cell division on the meristem interior.
Surgical studies first performed roughly half a century ago established that lateral organ polarity becomes fixed shortly following or immediately preceding organ emergence, and is dependent upon information derived from the apical meristem. In the absence of this information, lateral organs develop as radially symmetrical structures. Much of the research in my laboratory focuses on the goal of identifying this meristem-derived signal that induces organ polarity.
My laboratory is also contributing to the development of Selaginella moellendorffii as a model system for the study of plant development. Specifically, we are developing reliable methods for crossing and transformation, with the longer-term goal of performing mutageneses and forward genetic screening for developmental mutations.