Anji Ballerini
Harvard PhD ‘10
 
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot see my underwear in this photo. They’re shorts man...
Anji graduated in 2010 and is now a NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellow working in Scott Hodges’ Lab at UCSB. Her new email is evangeline.ballerini@lifesci.ucsb.edu.
A major transition in the life cycle of plants occurs when a plant shifts from vegetative to reproductive growth, in the case of angiosperms, flowering. The timing of this transition determines the environment in which plants are pollinated and in which seeds will mature and in turn germinate. Appropriate flowering time is thus critical to a plant’s reproductive success. In the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, a core eudicot, several genetic pathways responding to day length (photoperiod),
temperature (vernalization), hormone levels, and plant age work together to control the floral transition. Studies in the monocot species Oryza sativa (rice) have shown that the genes in the photoperiod pathway have been conserved with slightly modified functions, while genes integral to the temperature response pathway in Arabidopsis have not been highly conserved in either sequence or function outside of the Brassicaceae. My thesis research focuses on characterizing the developmental pathways leading to flowering in Aquilegia formosa (read more on our Current Research page). As a member of the lower eudicot family Ranunculaceae, A. formosa splits the deeply divergent branch between the monocots and the core eudicots, allowing for a finer dissection of how the key trait of flowering time has evolved throughout the angiosperms. Specifically, I am using the candidate gene approach to clone genes homologous to those in the Arabidopsis photoperiod pathway and will be carrying out expression studies to determine the manner in which these genes are regulated. To identify genes controlling the floral transition in response to vernalization in A. formosa, I am using Illumina RNA-Seq to compare expression levels of genes before and after vernalization treatment. A. formosa has a wide latitudinal distribution, from the Baja Peninsula up through Alaska in Pacific North America, over which photoperiod and vernalization cues vary greatly (Click to view my photos of Aquilegia in the wild, or go to our Aquilegia Gallery.) For that reason, I am also interested in examining genetic variation and population structure concerning loci involved in the photoperiod and vernalization pathways across the distribution of A. formosa.
Personal Background: I grew up along the banks of the Merced River in the small town of El Portal, CA, bordering Yosemite National Park. The child of rock climbing valley bums, I spent the first two weeks of my life in a tent in the notorious Camp 4. In my youth, my mom did her best to expose me to all of the amazing natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada mountains as well as to the rest of California’s diverse offerings. I fit right in as an undergraduate studying Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley. I am now trying to come to terms with New England’s hideous weather, boring yet expensive food, and relatively flat landscape while developing my professional complaining skills. Aside from my academic pursuits, I’m also interested in hiking, paleontology, Dudley House Crew, baseball, cycling, and continuing to explore the wonderful state of California when the opportunity arises.