Josephine Stout ’12 recently worked on a project that could be beneficial to the region’s wine and grape industry. Working in the lab of Professor of Biology Sigrid Carle, and in collaboration with Professor of Plant Pathology Tom Burr at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Stout researched a bacterium that infects grape vines.
The research is focused on a bacterium called Agrobacterium vitis, or A. vitis, which causes a disease called crown gall. While crown gall doesn’t kill the plants, it can decrease growth and productivity by limiting the amount of water and nutrients the plant receives.
The goal of Stout’s study was to determine whether A. vitis must be able to attach to the grapevines in order to cause harmful effects to the plants. Because grapes are essential to the Finger Lakes economy, keeping the plants free of disease is vital to the well being of grape growers.
Previous work on this project has shown that some attachment mutants (bacteria that cannot attach because of genetic mutations) are able to cause disease while others are not. In order to better qualify this relationship, Stout worked to create new mutants that could be tested.
“The creation of these mutants can be difficult and requires many different steps, which must each be perfect in order for the process to be successful,” says Stout.
“This research takes years to get results. First mutants have to be created, which is tricky, and then the mutants have to be tested on plants,” explains Carle. “It is exciting to be involved in research that can directly benefit the grape growers here in the Finger Lakes.”
Stout is a biology major and an environmental studies minor. On campus, Stout has also been involved in theatre productions, serving as stage manager for “Eurydice.” She is also a member of the the Rotaract Club, the Health Professions Club, and is a Biology Teaching Fellow. Stout is currently in the process of applying to medical school and hopes to pursue a career as a surgeon or a pediatrician.