Tina Shing Li Lai


I am a master’s grad student working in the Curtis Lab since summer 2013. I am apart of the Penn State Plant Biology Graduate Program: Hucks Life Science Institute. I received my BSc in Biology specializing in Plants from Penn State University in 2011. My previous research areas were in analyzing the effects of arabinose and xylose content in Brachypodium on cell wall digestibility in the Marcia Buanafina Lab. In addition, I was studying the effects of basal root growth angles on drought in common bean varieties at the Brown and Lynch Root Lab.


I am interested in all aspects of Plant Biology Research. Currently in the Curtis Lab, I am working on plant biotechnology based projects. I am using the leaf infiltration transient expression system and special vectors developed in the Curtis Lab to express difficult proteins using N. benthamiana as the model plant. In addition, I am also using the transient system to express transcription factors in Theobroma cacao (The chocolate tree) transiently to improve somatic embryogenesis (SE). Candidate transcription factors are chosen based on genes found to improve SE in arabidopsis. This project is funded by a NSF grant and is in collaboration with Mark Guiltinan and Siela Maximova, who are leaders of the Cacao Research Endowment at Penn State from the World Cacao Foundation.

Current Work

  • Thesis Project: Analyzing the effects of protein TcPla1 and it’s effects on improving Somatic Embryogenesis in Theobroma cacao in comparison to GhPla1 which has been shown to improve SE in cotton a close relative of T. cacao.

  • Expansin Project: Using transient leaf infiltration technology to expression of the expression the Recalcitrant Cucumber Alpha-Expansin protein


Conferences Attended

Society of In Vitro Biology Meeting Providence, RI June 15-June 19 2013


Graham Endowed Graduate Fellowship 2012 - 2014

Huck Institutes Graduate Assistantship for 2012-2013

Braddock Graduate Scholarship 2012-2013

Undergraduate Awards

Bunton Waller Scholarship 2007-2011

National SMART Grant 2011

Winner of Penn State Confucius Institute Scholarship Competition 2011

Academic Competitiveness Grant 2007-2008

Contact Information