Welcoming New Faculty Member Dr. Sarathi Weraduwage: Establishing Plant Biochemistry Research at Bishop’s University.

Welcoming New Faculty Member Dr. Sarathi Weraduwage: Establishing Plant Biochemistry Research at Bishop’s University.

“We need to optimize metabolic pathways in plants to ensure sustainable production of food and other plant products in the future”

Dr. Sarathi WeraduwageDr. Sarathi Weraduwage joined Bishop’s University in 2022 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. She is already well-known for her previous work at Michigan State University as a postdoctoral researcher and research assistant professor where she studied isoprene, a volatile hemiterpene made by some plants, as well as the relationship between photosynthesis and plant growth specifically in the model plant Arabidopsis. Her work on isoprene helped redefine its role as a signaling molecule. Dr. Weraduwage has published many papers, and supervised and mentored many students.

Dr. Weraduwage hopes to establish a highly collaborative, top-notch research program in Plant Biochemistry and Physiology at Bishops University. As a Plant Scientist, the overarching goal of her research program at Bishop’s University is to discover biochemical and physiological strategies to enhance growth, productivity and resilience to stress in plants under future climate conditions. “I have always been fascinated by the immense diversity of growth habits in plants, the shear complexity of their metabolic (biochemical) pathways and their adaptability to varying micro- and macro-environments. Plants are so important to sustain life on earth. They nourish the entire world, provide the oxygen we need to breathe, recycle nutrients, and produce chemicals important for pharmaceutical and other industries”. Dr. Weraduwage explains that the negative effects of climate change on plant growth will pose a significant threat to meeting the demand for food and other resources posed by the ever-increasing global population. Her lab will address these challenges by targeting and optimizing important metabolic pathways in plants to improve stress tolerance, growth and yield under future environmental conditions.

Recently, Dr. Weraduwage was awarded an FRQNT Research Support for New Academics Grant to study novel roles of isoprene. She has also been awarded a Bishop’s University Research and Creative Activity Grant to carry out a collaborative research project on improving crop productivity under heat stress. To facilitate biotechnological research and the use of genetically engineered plants, Dr. Weraduwage is also working towards establishing a Plant Biosafety level 2 research laboratory and hopes to develop a well-equipped Plant Research Facility in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry in the future.

A key focus of Dr. Weraduwage’s research program is to provide undergraduates with meaningful and high-quality research opportunities so that they can apply their acquired knowledge in research and achieve their academic and career objectives. Second year Bishop’s University student, Janick Boily, will be the first summer student in Dr. Weraduwage’s lab. Janick has received an American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to conduct a 10-week research project in Plant Biology. The ASPB-SURF will also provide one-year free membership in the ASPB and funding for the student to present their findings at the 2024 ASPB Plant Biology conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.

If you’re interested in learning more about plants and their biochemistry, and how to use biotechnologies to improve plant growth and productivity and their uses in industry, you can take some of Dr. Weraduwage’s classes: Introduction Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO196), Plant Physiology (BIO 345), Plant Bioinformatics – Principles and Practical Approaches (BCH342), Plant Biotechnology for Crop Improvement (BCH460) and Plant Biochemistry for Human Health and Nutrition (BCH317). If you are interested in carrying out undergraduate or graduate research in Plant Science, email Dr. Weraduwage: sweraduw@ubishops.ca.

Joannie St-Germain M.Sc.
Research Officer
Office of Research and Graduate Studies