Sara Morey

Project Name:

A Systems Biology Approach to Understanding Lignin Production

Systems biology is an exciting new biology-based inter-disciplinary field that integrates computation and genetic information to study the complex interactions in biological systems. Sara Morey will work with a team of researchers on a project to build models to study the lignin biosynthesis pathway. Lignin is the main barrier to the utilization of biomass for energy, for papermaking, and for forage digestibility. The ability of woody plants to establish forest ecosystems depends on lignin. Global warming increases stresses on plants making them more susceptible to pests and pathogens. Understanding the fundamental nature of lignin biosynthesis can lead to improved crops and can aid in resistance to drought, pests and pathogens. The project will use the model woody plant, black cottonwood, (Populus trichocarpa) and a systems approach including advanced quantitative methods of genomics and biochemistry to analyze lignin biosynthesis and reveal potential new control mechanisms. Ms. Morey will learn how scientific advances in forest genetics biotechnology help in the preservation of natural resources. She will have full exposure to cutting-edge processes in breeding including tracking genetic markers and manipulating and fine tuning the growing processes. She will learn methods used to simulate complex communication at the cellular level that effect a cell’ ability to reproduce and take in essential nutrients and will gain an understanding of mathematical modeling and how to predicate outcomes based on these models.

From School:

Wakefield High School


Wake County Public Schools


Dr. Joel Ducoste, Dr. Ron Sederoff, NC State University


National Science Foundation

Published in 2012.