PAID Summer 24 research - Measuring how plants breath - stomatal function in corn

Plant mouths, called stomata, are pores on the leaf surface of land plants. Plants open stomata to absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, but lose a huge amount of water at the same time. To balance carbon gain and water loss, plants have to open and close their stomata in response to variable environments like drought, high temperature and light. The grass family, including our most important crops such as corn, wheat and rice,  has the most efficient stomata in the plant kingdom. It is hypothesized that specialized grass stomata contribute to the success of the grass that can withstand drought or higher temperatures than many other plants. Grass stomata is composed of a pair of guard cells and  subsidiary cells. Less is known about the function of subsidiary cells. We will use corn stomata as a model to understand the importance of subsidiary cell function and the relationship between the subsidiary cell development and anti-drought trait. Because of the strong relevance of the stomatal function and plants productivity, this work can be applied to the crop breeders to create drought-tolerant plants.

This work will include both laboratory-based research and research in the field at the UMass Farm. 

This project is for summer 2024, and is a full time (40hrs/week), paid position as part of the CAFE Summer Scholars Program ( In addition to training in the Facette lab, the student will participate in training programs and fieldtrips organized by CAFÉ, and present a poster in September on their summer research. 

In addition to stomatal physiology, the Facette lab also researches cell polarity and asymmetric division in plants. Students will be exposed to these topics as well during their summer research. 

Although the paid position is for the summer only, there are opportunities to continue in the academic year for research credit on this or related projects. To be eligible, students must be returning to UMass in Fall 2024. 


Name of research group, project, or lab
Facette Lab
Why participate in this opportunity?

Students will gain training in multiple lab and field techniques.
Participation in lab activities will promote foundational knowledge in areas of plant biology including plant physiology, cell biology, and genetics. 
Mentorship by Facette lab members and CAFE leaders will give the students training in science communication.

Logistics Information:
Subject Category
Molecular Biology
Plant Biology
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

No previous experience necessary, training will be provided. 
Students must be able to work outside in the field for 2-5 hours at a time during the summer. 
Students must be returning to UMass in AY24. 
Students are expected to be available from mid to late May through August, during regular work hours, for ~40 hours a week (although time off for vacations/trips is both allowed and encouraged).

Time commitment
15+ h/wk
Position Types and Compensation
Research - Paid, General
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Techniques in the lab: DNA extraction, PCR, genotyping, basic microscopy. Based on student interest, there may also be opportunities to learn gas exchange analysis, molecular cloning, and/or confocal microscopy.

Techniques in the field: Field organization, planting and maintenance, maize genetic crosses. 

Mentorship in oral and poster presentations. 

Project start
May 2024
Contact Information:
Michelle Facette
Principal Investigator
Name of project director or principal investigator
Michelle Facette
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 29 appl.
15+ h/wk
Project categories
Genetics (+2)
GeneticsMolecular BiologyPlant Biology