Richard Smith is a computational scientist that uses computer simulation techniques to investigate questions in plant development. He is interested in how genes control physical properties of cells resulting in growth, and how the resulting change in geometry and physical forces feeds back on signaling and gene regulation. The lab develops the modeling software MorphoDynamX (www.MorphoDynamX.org) which is specialized for the simulation of growing plant tissue and biomechanics.
Many people are familiar with wood as a structural material, widely used in buildings for
centuries. In buildings wood can be used as a structural skeleton, like the bones in our bodies. Less familiar is the structure of green plant tissue, which behaves as a pressurized cellular solid. Turgor pressure inside the cell puts the plant cell wall under tension, and like an inflatable air mattress, gives the plant its shape and structural strength. If you remove the pressure the plant wilts and loses its shape. Here I will talk about some non-intuitive behavior that occurs in green plant tissue, and the computer simulation modeling we are doing to examine its nature.