Viji  Sitther

Assistant Professor

 

RESEARCH INTERESTS: My research program answers questions that unlock new ways to create renewable energy through applications of the concepts, principles, and molecular tools in biotechnology.

Incorporating salt tolerant genes in a fresh water cyanobacterium, Fremyella diplosiphon, in order to enable its growth in brackish water is a main aspect of my research. By engineering the halotolerance gene, we envisage biofuel production using naturally available brackish water, which will be a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels. Nanoparticle-mediated enhancement of photosynthesis and improvement of lipid production in the halotolerant strain are other aspects of my research.

Another area of focus involves genetic improvement of agronomic traits in Camelina sativa cultivars, a biofuel crop that produces seed oil rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation to increase biotic and abiotic stress tolerance and detection of somoclonal variation among in vitro generated plantlets are being studied. Elucidating genetic relationships among C. sativa cultivars using DNA fingerprinting to identify potential parents in breeding programs is also an important aspect of this research.

Selected Publications
• Sitther, V., D. Zhang, D.L. Harris, A.K. Yadav, F.T. Zee, L. W. Meinhardt, and S. A. Dhekney. 2014. Genetic characterization of guava (Psidium guajava L.) germplasm in the United States using microsatellite markers. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 61:829-839.
• C. H. Bock, T. T. Endalew, B. K. Biswas, A. K. Yadav, V. Sitther, M. W. Hotchkiss, K. L. Stevenson and B. W. Wood. A comparison of UP-PCR and RAPD markers to study genetic diversity of Fusicladium effusum (G. Winter), cause of pecan scab. Forest Pathology (doi: 10.1111/efp.12090).
• AnithaChristy S. A., ArunMani, M., and Sitther, V. 2014. Rock phosphate solubilization using oxalic acid-secreting Laccaria fraterna. Indian Journal of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology 3: 16-21.
• AnithaChristy S. A., ArunMani, M., and Sitther, V. 2014. Isolation and regeneration of protoplasts from Laccaria fraterna, an ectomycorrhizal fungus. Indian Journal of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology 3: 22-30.
• 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.

Media reports:
Click on the links that highlight Biofuel research at Morgan State University
• Press release: Morgan Professor awarded a $100,000 Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) Award

Biofuel research at Morgan Innovation day, 2014 (video)

• Our effort in developing clean biofuel from cyanobacteria featured in The Union of Concerned Scientist's Oil Solutions at Work.

Sitther Lab Group

Graduate student Behnam Tabatabai explaining his presentation at a symposium