Viji  Sitther

Assistant Professor


RESEARCH INTERESTS: DNA fingerprinting and genetic characterization of specialty crop plants for developing improved cultivars, in vitro plant regeneration, and detection of somoclonal variation in micropropagated plants using microsatellite markers.

Dr. Viji Sitther is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Morgan State University. Her research focuses on biofuel production in brackish waters using Fremyella diplosiphon, a cyanobacterium that has a light-dependent acclimation process known as complementary chromatic adaptation (CCA). CCA provides the organism flexibility to the type of light it can absorb in order to grow in a wide range of environmental conditions. This photosynthetic organism is being explored as an efficient, environmentally conscious, and cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels. Dr. Sitther's research team aims at engineering a salt tolerant gene into the wild type F. diplosiphon in order to enable its growth in brackish water. Based on the commercial prospects of the technology, Dr. Sitther was awarded a $100,000 Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) Award in 2013.

Another area of her research involves elucidating the genetic relationships among Camelina sativa cultivars, a biofuel crop that produces seed oil rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Dr. Sitther uses microsatellite markers to identify desirable cultivars that could be used as potential parents in breeding programs. Detection of somoclonal variation among in vitro generated C. sativa plants obtained through tissue culture and agrobacterium-mediated transformation to increase biotic and abiotic stress tolerance are other aspects of her research.

Dr. Viji Sitther obtained a B.S. in Plant Science and M.S., M. Phil Degree, and Ph.D. degrees in Botany from University of Madras (India), and B.Ed. in Botany from Annamalai University (India). She was a research associate at The Pennsylvania State University, PA prior to serving as a research professional/graduate faculty at the Fort Valley State University, GA. Dr. Sitther joined Morgan State University as an Assistant Professor in 2012. She has published 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and has presented her work at national and international scientific conferences.

Selected Publications
• Sitther, V., D. Zhang, D.L. Harris, A. K. Yadav, Zee, F. T., Meinhardt, L. W and S.A. Dhekney. 2014. Genetic characterization of guava (Psidium guajava L.) germplasm in the United States using molecular markers. Genetic Resources and Crop Protection (In Press).
• Sitther, V., D. Zhang, D.L. Harris, W.R. Okie, S.A. Dhekney and A.K. Yadav. 2012. Cultivar identification, pedigree verification, and diversity analysis among peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) based on simple sequence repeat markers. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 137:114-121.
• Sitther, V., Harris, D.L., Dhekney, S.A, J. Bai., E. A. Baldwin and A. K. Yadav. 2011. Total phenol content of guava fruit and development of an in vitro regeneration protocol amenable to genetic improvement. Int. J. Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health 4:225-236.
• Viji, G., Harris, D. L., F. T. Zee., and Yadav, A. K. 2010. Use of microsatellite markers to characterize genetic diversity of selected accessions of guava (Psidium guajava L.) in the United States. Acta Horticulturae 859:169-176.


Graduate student Behnam Tabatabai presenting explaining his presentation at the Research symposium at Morgan State University

SEM Undergraduate students working in Dr. Sitther's lab