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Summer Programs Faculty Focus: About Genetic Engineering and GMOs with Professor Ludmila Tyler

Posted by Lily Cigale on Feb 19, 2016 3:43:00 PM

Dr. Ludmila Tyler grew up in the Carolinas. She attended college at Auburn University in Alabama and went on to Duke in North Carolina to get her PhD. Dr. Tyler was always interested in the life sciences. She thought she wanted to be a doctor, but when she began working in a plant biology research lab, she realized that working with plants was a better fit for her. Dr. Tyler got her PhD with a focus on plant genetics and development. She found teaching very rewarding and worked as a TA (teaching assistant) throughout the process of getting her PhD. Now, Dr. Tyler is a lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology here at UMass Amherst, where she combines her love of teaching with her passionate interest in plant biology. 

"Plants are key to to ecosystems, food webs, economies...plants are very critical," Dr. Tyler told me when we spoke on the phone. Excitedly, she went on to explain that plants are not only important, they also make great research systems.

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"You can study things with plants that you can't do with mice," she told me. "The more we understand, the more we are able to do with plants". Historically, genetic engineering has been done for centuries through domestication and breeding, but as our society's scientific knowledge and ability skyrockets, the possibilities widen and expand. Genetic engineering of plants can now be used to address some of the biggest global issues of our time, including global hunger and climate change. 

Dr. Ludmila Tyler's pre-college summer program, Investigating Genetic Engineering and GMOs, will give you an understanding of modern biotechnology, what it can achieve and the ways it is applied globally.. If you choose this summer pre-college program, you will spend most of your time working in a lab, getting hands on exposure to techniques used in plant and bacterial engineering. Your time in the lab will be interspersed with fun, interactive activities and Dr. Tyler will be asking you what you're interested in, so that she can tailor the course to students' interests and passions. Completing this course will give you a lot insight into the wide world of GMOs.

Did you know that the vast majority of plants we eat in the U.S. now are genetically modified? Me neither! But taking this class will help you learn what that means for us both societaly and individually and help you understand the science behind the headline when you see news stories about GMOs. The topics covered in this summer program are the topics taught in an introductory lab course for sophomores at UMass, so this course will do a great job of preparing you for a future in scientific research and giving you a sense of what college is really like. At the end of your week here, you will have the opportunity to present on any relevant topic that interests you.

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Dr. Tyler is mostly a teacher, but does research on the sides. Her interests are in plant genetics and developmental bio-fuel applications. Plants are good for making bioethenol, and Dr. Ludmila Tyler studies the ways that this can be harnessed to meet energy needs and make the ways we live more environmentally sustainable. In the words of Dr. Tyler, "genetic engineering is just cool". If you agree, her pre-college program is where you're gonna want to be this summer!

For more information about our wide variety of pre-college offerings, visit our website:

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