Research Interests (300 words)
My research integrates both fundamental and applied scientific approaches related to genomics, anatomy, morphology, and cytology of plants. I use data from all these subdisciplines to generate meaningful biological knowledge (i.e., generate phylogenies and breeding-models). Thus far, data for my research were obtained during the fieldwork (six countries), laboratory, herbaria, and greenhouse levels employing both observational and experimental study designs at various spatial and temporal scales. I have effectively integrated these datasets into useful knowledge using cutting-edge computational analyses. Therefore, my background has positioned me uniquely to execute both evolutionary studies that identify the key drivers that underlie the diversity of plants and agrigenomic studies that aimed for next-generation breeding of crops.
For my PhD at the University of Florida, I studied a woody plant group, Memecylon, and revealed its origin, distribution, and character evolution at a global scale and putative reticulation events of a South African Memecylon clade at a fine-scale. Moreover, I elucidated the patterns of niche dynamics for Sri Lankan Memecylon. Through this research experience, I realized the power of computational models generated from biodiversity and molecular data to understand biological events at temporal and spatial scales.
My ongoing postdoctoral research at the Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), which has undergraduate involvement, focusses on genomics, phenomics, and anatomy of hemp (Cannabis sativa) to identify strains for production and industrial applications. Currently, we are employing a machine-learning (ML) approach to model large-scale datasets of Cannabis to generate genomic selection (GS) models that estimate breeding values. As a side project, we uncovered the effect of the genotypes and retting approaches on fiber production of hemp and a novel biotechnological approach to extract hemp fibers.
In Planting Science, I would like to mentor both undergraduates and high school students related to morphology, anatomy, genetics, life-cycles, and pathology of plants.