The NYBG Graduate Studies Program trains Master’s and Ph.D. students in Plant Science in partnership with six affiliated universities. At the time of their thesis defense, Ph.D. students are required to present a public seminar to explain the context, methods, results, and significance of their dissertation research. The presentations are evaluated by the thesis defense committee, a combination of university professors and NYBG scientists. Dissertation defense seminars offer great exposure to modern botanical research, and students employ a diversity of techniques during the five-year dissertation research project.
The evolution of the seed was integral to the success of seed plants, a major botanical lineage that constitutes the vast majority of plant species living today. By providing a structure of protection that also permits a period of dormancy, seeds help ensure plant embryos germinate under favorable conditions. Although the seed is a feature shared across gymnosperms and angiosperms, there is a large amount of variation in this structure, and its origin, evolution, and development are still debated. The research presented by NYBG and CUNY doctoral student Cecilia Zumajo-Cardona will focus on seed coat structures in five species of gymnosperms, with the aim of better understanding the origin and development of this morphological novelty. By analyzing the expression of known seed coat candidate genes in Gnetum gnemon and Ginkgo biloba, it was possible to determine that these genes are not conserved in seed plants. These results led Cecilia to seek new candidate genes in the seed coat of the selected species by transcriptomic analyses.
Cecilia Zumajo-Cardona is currently a Ph.D. student in a joint program between the City University of New York (CUNY) and The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), where she is mentored by Dr. Barbara A. Ambrose.
Her Bachelor’s degree (2016, Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia), obtained while working in the lab of Dr. Natalia Pabon-Mora, focused on studying the evolution of the euAP2 gene lineage in seed plants and its impact on the evolution of plants. Since 2016, Cecilia has continued her Master’s and Doctoral studies, focusing on a subject of fundamental importance in the evolution of plants: the evolution and development of the seed coat in non-model species, namely as regards five gymnosperm species. Cecilia is interested in understanding the evolution and development of different plant structures, which has been a consistent thread of study throughout her career.