Botanical Research

There are many opportunities to do original research while you are a student in Biology at Rollins. In addition to smaller research projects within courses, many of our students participate in the Rollins Summer Research Program, spending six to eight weeks on campus working under a sponsoring faculty member. Students also have the option of doing a year-long senior research project as part of their degree program.

Jill Razor

Jill Razor
Faculty Sponsor: Dr Judy Schmalstig
"Heliotropic movement, site of light perception, and blue light receptors in the peanut plant." The first objective is to see if the peanut plant exhibits diaheliotropic movement. Then I will try to determine where the peanut plant perceives the light (the lamina or the pulvinus). Finally, I will work on a detailed light spectrum and determine which blue light receptor is involved with light movement.


Matilda Madden

Matilda Madden
Faculty Sponsor: Dr Judy Schmalstig
"The Effects of Whitefly Infestation on Squash Plant Phloem Proteins." The feeding of whiteflies on certain crop plants causes an array of diseases, such as squash silverleaf. The flies feed upon the older leaves, while symptoms of silverleaf (i.e. shrunken and altered chloroplasts, shrunken starch granules, and an increase of air spaces) appear in the younger leaves. Since plants produce an array of defense chemicals and other proteins in response to insect attack, it is possible that such a protein is being produced in the whitefly infested squash plants. I am examining the proteins present in the phloem of healthy versus infected squash plants using SDS PAGE (sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis) of the phloem exudates. My goal is to both be able to identify the known proteins present in the healthy squash plants and to also search for possible new proteins in the infected plants. If a new protein is seen consistently in the infected specimens, further research in subsequent years might be able to sequence this protein, and perhaps find a way to disable it, thus providing more protection from silverleaf to the plants.


Jamie Hogan and Kevin Tucker

Jamie Hogan and Kevin Tucker
Faculty Sponsor: Dr Paul Stephenson
"Adventures with the carnivorous pitcher plant, Nepenthes burkei." During the summer of 2002 Jamie Hogan ('04) and Kevin Tucker ('05) worked with their faculty advisor, Dr Paul Stephenson, studying digestive enzymes produced by the carnivorous pitcher plant Nepenthes burkei. Nepenthes is a tropical plant, native to Malaysia, so it prefers warm, very moist, conditions. The plants are maintained either in the Hauck Research Center, or in a growth chamber located in the Department of Biology. Care of these exotic plants requires that they be thoroughly watered every day and misted three times a day, using only distilled, deionized water. As with other carnivorous plants, Nepenthes is adapted to nutrient poor environments and supplements its uptake of nitrogen and other nutrients by "eating" insects, particularly ants! However, in order to provide our research plants with protein supplements under controlled conditions, we "fed" our plants a 1mg/mL solution of bovine serum albumin (BSA). BSA is a protein component of cow blood. The pitchers of Nepenthes are modified leaves that contain a fluid which digests any insects that are unlucky enough to become trapped! The pitcher fluid is acidic and contains several different hydrolytic enzymes. Jamie and Kevin's research focused on characterizing proteinases, which are enzymes that degrade protein, and RNases, enzymes that degrade RNA. Preliminary results suggest that Nepenthes produces several proteinases of differing molecular weights. Other evidence indicates that individual pitchers on the same plant may produce different proteinases. Furthermore, at least one RNase, relatively low molecular weight, is also secreted into the pitcher fluid. Future research will involve the use of class specific inhibitors to attempt to identify the types of proteinases produced and the cloning and sequencing of genes that are up-regulated in active pitchers.

Hauck Research Center

1000 Holt Ave - Box 2743
Winter Park, Florida 32789-4499
Phone (407) 646 2399
Fax (407) 646 2138

For further information:
achryst@rollins.edu