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Roots are essential to the growth and survival of a plant. They determine its resistance to stresses, droughts, and to soil erosion. Nonetheless, our ability to study them in their natural environment are limited by the complexity and opacity of soil. On the other hand, growing plants in transparent gels is a very poor mimic of the conditions that the plant finds in soil.

We used our engineering toolbox to create three experimental platforms that allow our students to study the development of roots in designed environments. We investigate quantitatively (and simply) the influence of a number of physical and chemical variables on the development of root systems. In simpler terms, we aim to understand what “fertility” really is.

We believe that UG students should be exposed to all the aspects of research work. Therefore, the student will be involved in the weekly brainstorming sessions and will be active part of the experimental design.

Program Mentor: Ludovico Cadementari, assistant professor, Materials Science and Engineering, Iowa State University

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