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11/8/2005 Linfield biologist to share research on ’superman’ gene

McMINNVILLE - A Linfield College biologist will provide a superhero slant on plant genetics during an upcoming faculty lecture, "Why is Superman Sterile?" on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall.

Chris Gaiser will discuss more than a decade of research he and students have conducted on the "superman" gene mutation. Gaiser, who specializes in ovule development, is studying the molecular and genetic mechanisms that enable a tissue to create an organ-the ovule-with highly specialized tissues and cells. He’s trying to understand the genetic mechanisms that govern ovule development. "Superman" is particularly interesting because it is involved in both the development of the ovule, but also in the development of other flower structures.

During post-doctoral work at the University of California, Davis, Gaiser found that not only are there extra stamens in superman mutants, but the ovules are effected as well. To continue his study, Gaiser developed a plant line that carried two mutations, one in the "superman" gene and a second in the "apetala3" gene.

Over the years, Gaiser has involved a number of Linfield students in his research including Jessica (Gomez) Graham, a 1998 graduate, and Melanie Brown, who earned her Linfield degree in 2003. Junior Nick Davenport is currently investigating the question of pollen tube growth.

"This has been sort of like a detective story, and it has been very fun to be able to parse out the various effects of mutations in the ’superman’ gene," Gaiser said. "It has been a particularly rewarding experience, because virtually all the experiments have been conducted by Linfield biology majors. I am deeply indebted to them for their many hours of hard work."

Gaiser, a member of the Linfield faculty since 1994, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. from Oregon State University.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.