Her love of plants and biology led Lauren Redpatt to North Carolina State University, and her knowledge of plant genetics and advanced molecular research helped her soon begin her career in crop improvement.
In July, P.D. Candidates began working as a scientist at a Durham-based startup company that uses advanced genetic editing techniques and data analysis to develop fruits and vegetables with characteristics that farmers and consumers expect.
Redpat Road to NC State
Studying plant science and identifying genetic code has not always been a redundant plan. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and French from Charleston College, she taught English in Korea and Japan, then returned to the United States to study horticulture at the University of Georgia.
As part of her master’s research, Redpatt has conducted research related to cold hardiness in the southern hybrid blueberry buds. That experience, along with his desire to learn and apply molecular techniques for crop enhancement, attracted him to Assistant Professor Hamid Ashraffi Blueberry Genetics and Genomics Laboratory at the NC State Department of Horticultural Sciences.
Under the guise of astrology, Redpatt studied the species of blueberries to determine their strength, sweetness, color, acidity, and potency, and the genes associated with those characteristics.
Her research is a Gnostic Association study or GWAS. GWAS is especially useful for diagnosing complex features or multiple features at once. With this method, scientists are searching for genetic variations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. SNPs vary in interest characteristics, such as sweetness, size, or health-promoting compounds.
We are working on 251 different types of genotypes – think of a classroom full of 251 students, and you will see their hair color, eye color, height, weight, and shoe size. And then they are trying to find genes that determine these factors. That’s what I do with all those blueberries, ”explains Redpat.
Clearing the way to a better berry
By identifying which genes are associated with specific traits, breeders can compare young plants to the genetic material that the breeders take to produce the best blueberries.
“Farmers can save the time, money and resources by diverting the most unhealthy blueberries and direct them to the best fruits and vegetables they can grow,” Reddat said. In addition, early genetic modification of young plants significantly reduces the time it takes for a farmer to reproduce a new species for the right characteristics.
Redpat, which is about to graduate in December, believes her NC state research will have a lasting impact not only on farmers but also on producers and consumers.
I feel that through my research I have continued to grow blueberries in general, and this difference has been observed in North Carolina over the next 10 years and we hope so.